With passports in hand, hundreds of Mitchell Elementary’s families took a trip around the world during the school’s Multicultural Night on April 12.
“It’s a chance for students and families to share their culture, heritage and background,” said the ESL teacher Jane Hampleman.
The purpose, she added, is to provide an opportunity to reach back to roots as well as embrace diversity.
Parents and family-member volunteers set up booths that represented about 20 different counties, including Mexico, Columbia, the Netherlands, Russia, Austria, France, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Thailand, Iran, Puerto Rico, China, India, Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Some of the booths had food samples from the various countries and others included poster boards with pictures and other tidbits of fun information, such as the Chinese zodiac.
“The kids get excited and want to try new things that normally they wouldn’t,” said Patty Evans, a parent whose grandmother is Lebanese. “I grew up eating these foods — most of them are family recipes.”
Evans provided samples of baklava, which is a sweet desert made of nuts and honey; dolma, which is stuffed grape leaves served with garlic sauce; and za’atar, which is a sauce of roasted thyme, spices and olive oil and served with bread.
Amanda Garner is a third-grade teacher at Mitchell and is an enrolled tribal member with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She is pleased that many of her students came up to her asked questions about her heritage that they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to ask in class.
Jocelyn Moreno McGrath set up a booth all about Puerto Rico with traditional snacks, children’s books in Spanish and salsa music playing in the background.
“It’s important to me where our roots are from,” she said. “I’m trying to share my culture with my daughter.”
In addition to her daughter Emilia, 5, taking Spanish classes at Mitchell, the family often uses the language at home and eats traditional foods.
Fifth-graders Elise Henderson and Kyra Jordan used Multicultural Night for another purpose — to expand a portion of the school’s library to include a Global Library. The Global Library will have dual language books as well as books available in a variety of languages.
“We want to welcome all the incoming students from different countries,” Jordan said. “They will enjoy reading books in their own language until they’re comfortable with English.”
So far, the Global Library has 50 books that represent about 10 different languages. Some of the books were found and ordered online, but others were donated.
During Multicultural Night, attendees donated a total of $155, which the school will match to purchase more books for the Global Library.
“It’s hard enough to move to a new school, but to move to a new country and learn a new language is even harder,” Henderson said. “Through books, they can make connections and new friends.”
Mitchell’s student body has at least 20 different languages represented, Hampleman said, which includes students whose second language is English and English-speaking students who speak a second language. The Colorado School of Mines could be one reason that the school, and the Golden community, attracts a diverse population, Hampleman added.
“Diversity makes us special,” said Claudia Thomas, the hosting coordinator for AFS, which is a foreign exchange student program.
America can be thought of like a puzzle, she said, and the diversity each person represents is like the all the different puzzle pieces.
“The fact that schools are embracing diversity helps us become a stronger community,” Thomas said.