Today’s military communities are unique reflections of the world, comprised of people from all over the globe, and as a U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity school, Barsanti Elementary School embraced that diversity through a cultural event Friday.
Barsanti held its second annual International Day, transforming its main hallway into a travel gateway with 14 international destinations represented through colorful and informative stations.
“Today we are celebrating the diversity in the military community,” said Sylvia Crawford, Barsanti student council and gifted resource teacher. “Our students have been born all over the world and the people that serve in our military are from all over the world as well, so we wanted to give the kids a sense of their background, their heritage, geography and to let them know that there is a big world out there and how very interesting all these places are.”
Cultural music filled the air as students rotated to visit different countries and territories, handing each travel station chief their “passports” at arrival.
“When they stop and talk to people at each station, they get a stamp, just like they would traveling around the world,” said Crawford. “Now they have an international passport, which they can keep to remember the places they visited.”
The event showcased a variety of cultures, displaying items such as books, pottery and food items. Each station also displayed a map indicating the location of the featured country or territory.
The event also provided students structured academic activities like a scavenger and question hunt, which required students to ask questions at each station visited and then complete a questionnaire which quizzed them on various topics about the featured countries.
“I’m learning about all the different countries and how they eat and stuff, what their language is about, so I can visit some of these countries in the future,” said fourth grader Avrin McGinnis.
Students were able to travel to South America and stop in El Salvador, then continue to the Caribbean Islands and Puerto Rico, head to Africa and stop in Ghana, rotate north to visit European countries Ireland, Hungary, England, Germany, Italy, France, Greece and finish their travel around the world in Asia with visits to Japan, Korea and Vietnam.
Specialist Anthony Amonoo, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, who is originally from Ghana, volunteered his time after his first sergeant told him about the event.
“I am here to just help the kids out,” said Amonoo, dressed a Ghanaian smock. “I am here to teach them a little about Ghana, like its location, the capital, interests and our culture.”
At the England station, students were treated to cookies and tea and were able to browse through popular children’s classic English literature, making it a popular destination.
“I visited England briefly while stationed in Germany and mentioned I had a teapot, and so here we are – having tea and cookies,” said parent volunteer Stacey Bohon, laughing.
At station Vietnam, children participated in language-based activities, learning useful phrases and practicing them out loud.
“A couple years ago, I visited North Vietnam,” said Crawford, dressed in a blue and gold silk sarong and bamboo hat. “It was very fascinating, very beautiful country. I hope to acquaint the kids with some of the geography, map of Vietnam, their currency and give them a little sense of the language.”
Third grader Vanity Moreno said she learned about countries she never knew existed.
“I had never heard of Hungary or Ghana,” said Moreno. “My favorite station was Korea. I liked the artwork they had at the table. I thought it was pretty. They said Korean words – we couldn’t really understand it, but they told us the meaning.”
Kathleen Cheon, a parent volunteer representing Korea, dazzled children by wearing her wedding hanbok, which according to fourth grader Ariana Warsing, made her look like a princess.
“She was so cute!” said Ariana. “I really enjoy this, where people from different countries can represent their country. I have never been to Korea and I learned their rice is purple and I didn’t know. I am very excited to go to the rest of these but really excited to go to El Salvador [station] because my Mom’s side of the Family is from El Salvador.”
According to Crawford, this year’s event was a huge success, greatly due to an increase of volunteers.
“This year we thought we would incorporate visuals that children can see, touch, feel and thankfully we have had incredible parent participation,” said Crawford.
“We are an unusual community, the military. We have people from all over the world and the kids should know and appreciate that.”
“With this, they can see a bigger picture of their world,” said Crawford. “We want them to think big, not small.”