Putting stop to culture shock Event: Towson State University officials say the Multicultural Day they organize exposes young students to the way others live and helps breaks down stereotypes.

November 20, 1996|By Beth Reinhard | Beth Reinhard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Swirling with colorful costumes, maps and flags, the Catonsville Elementary School gymnasium was transformed into a mini-United Nations yesterday to expose students to different cultures.

Fifty-five early education majors and teachers from Towson State University organized the event, which introduced the elementary school's 600 students to games, foods, music, art and literature from seven countries and Hawaii.

Wearing bright pink "passports" around their necks marked with self-portraits and signatures, the students visited booths representing Kenya, Israel, Mexico, Hawaii, Scotland, Greece, China and Egypt, receiving stamps on their passports at each stop.

"I feel it's so important for kids to experience how other children live in the world," said Principal Sue Torr, speaking over a din of drums and maracas. "It opens their minds, and the more open their minds, the more accepting and tolerant they are of one another."

Kay Broadwater, a Towson State art education lecturer who came up with the idea for Multicultural Day, said the event breaks down stereotypes.

"For example, they learn that kids in Kenya play Ring-Around-the-Rosy and learn the story of Cinderella," said Broadwater, who has taken the program to 10 different schools.

The Towson State students went all-out dressing up for the country they represented, donning grass skirts, kimonos, togas, sombreros and kilts. They served the countries' traditional foods, from shortbread to salsa, and greeted the children in the native language, be it Swahili or Hebrew.

At each station, the college students engaged the children in activities to broaden both their creativity and cultural understanding.

At the Scottish station, for example, the children made Scottish whistles from toilet paper rolls and wove plaids from colored yarn. At the Hawaiian booth, they made grass skirts from crepe paper and painted watercolor postcards of Hawaiian landscapes.

"The children were real excited about Hawaii," said Towson State senior Susan Hudson. "We even got some of the boys to do the hula dance."

Few of the students sat still during the half-day event, whether they were eating rice with chopsticks or doing the Mexican hat dance. One exception: the students being wrapped like mummies at the Egyptian booth.

"This is weird!" cried third-grader Ricky Dunkerly, as a Towson State student wrapped him in white fabric until only his freckles and blue eyes were showing.

The children got to take home handmade souvenirs from their travels: Greek masks, Chinese moon lanterns and African beaded necklaces. "I got a gold medal!" shrieked third-grader Eric Eubank after participating in a mock Olympics race.

Several children said they would like to visit the countries for real. One fourth-grade boy said he'd even wear a kilt if he went to Scotland.

"I liked Kenya because there's a lot of animals there," said first-grader Rejie Abraham.

"I liked hearing the music and the puppet show in Israel," said fourth-grader Melia Kemp.

Said fourth-grader Maria Sweeney: "I liked doing the Greek dance real fast."

Pub Date: 11/20/96

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