Dolls help children reflect their own heritage, appreciate others

March 02, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

From Holland, from Korea, from Poland, from Africa, a veritable United Nations of colorfully outfitted dolls is making its home at North Glen Elementary School.

The dolls, about 60 of them, are a family project designed to bring together old and young, marry art and family history, and sneak in the message to nearly 300 children that there's beauty in everyone's heritage.

The brainchild of art teacher Mary Rubin Rosoff, the ethnic dolls were an optional take-home project last month.

About 60 families, many with more than one child in school, took her up on it. She provided poster-board doll cutouts, and the rest was up to the families.

"My grandparents sat me down and told me about coming to this country," Mrs. Rosoff said, recalling family stories and family secrets. "I don't think grandparents do that so much anymore."

A red velveteen dress graced a dark-haired doll clutched by Shene Aviles, a first-grader whose father, Renne Aviles, is from El Salvador.

"I did it with my grandma, Grandma Celeste," the child said. "That was my dress when I was little."

Celeste Queen said she enjoyed working on the doll with her granddaughter. They made a Spanish doll because part of Mr. Aviles' family was from Spain and Mr. Aviles has taught his child to speak the language, Ms. Queen said.

Shene's mother, Sheila Aviles, is a Maryland native who learned Spanish and interprets for immigrants, Ms. Queen said.

She said the child explained to her that the doll needed beautiful earrings and fancy clothes.

Sixth-grader Shelley Brooks said she learned in talking with her parents that she is part American Indian and chose to make her doll reflect that part of her heritage because it seemed so interesting.

"I'm kind of glad. I think Indians are pretty. It makes me feel good that I am kind of Indian," she said.

Her doll was a girl in a dark dress decorated with beads.

Pupils and teachers expressed pleasure with the project's outcome. School Principal Sheila Baumgardner said she wants to keep the dolls at school as long as possible -- at least for a parade next week -- but Shelley would like to hang hers on her bedroom wall as soon as possible.

Classmate Heather Henson put a plaid tam on her doll's head -- like the one her grandfather wears -- to show her mostly Scottish heritage. The project has made her want to travel to Scotland, she said.

It also has given her and other children a perspective not only on themselves but on other children, Ms. Baumgardner said.

"You can't tell by looking at a person if they're from Scotland or Holland or wherever," Heather said.

Mrs. Rosoff, who did the same project at Solley Elementary, said she was delighted to see the variety of nationalities depicted and said teachers liked the tie-in with the multicultural curriculum.

Similar projects have been done at other schools around the county.

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