A trip around the world -- in one evening

May 19, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Sykesville Middle School is inviting the community to circle the globe today without leaving town.

Visitors to the Culture Cruisin' Festival in Cooper Park can shake hands with a mummy, charm a snake and dance around a Maypole. Pupils are offering tastes of international foods, strains of native music, snippets of Shakespeare -- all to give lessons in diversity.

It started with the seventh-grade social studies teacher looking for innovative ways to research history, culture and geography.

"I didn't want to hear, `I gotta do a boring report on Sweden' from the kids," said teacher JoAnn Heller. "I wanted a festival atmosphere, with music and food."

Instead of the typical five-page paper, pupils built a Maypole, a tradition they said might have originated in Sweden. They baked gingersnaps and will fry Swedish pancakes at their booth.

About 150 pupils are participating, working in teams to re-create the culture of 24 countries. The Peruvian exhibit has a live entry: llamas from a local farm.

David Ha and his team offer classes in the Japanese paper art of origami. They also have organized a chopstick race. Competitors must master the use of chopsticks and empty a rice bowl.

"It is fun, but you have to find out things," said David of his team project.

Steve Owens wrapped a straw-stuffed, jean-clad figure in moist paper Monday. He hoped it would pass for a mummy, his contribution to the Egyptian project.

"I think the Egyptians wrapped thousands of mummies, but not with newspaper," Steve said. "They didn't have newspapers."

The Puerto Rico team is focusing on tropical fish, while the Jamaica group will draw attention to island birds. Both have made games of angling and bird watching.

"This has really opened up new paths for the students," said Heller. "I hope they learn to enjoy and experience other cultures, not make fun of them. It may spark an interest in travel, too."

Dragon stories, from Eastern and Western cultures, will add a mythical element. The Scottish team has set up a golf match and the English one will take a look at Beatlemania. The Italian group is building a replica of the Tower of Pisa with Popsicle sticks, with one improvement: theirs won't lean.

Heller scheduled one dress rehearsal Monday, but expects the evening to be a work in progress. Given the typical end-of-the-year procrastination, several teams will not be ready until then, she said. The rush is on, though.

The eighth grade has created figures from the Shakespearean era and will perform scenes from "Hamlet," "Macbeth" and "Twelfth Night" in costume and with props.

"The students were surprised how much they liked Shakespeare," said language arts teacher Ashley Leimbach. "They have found a lot of themes they can apply today."

A professional steel drum band, a local karate instructor and an international percussionist, who will offer drum lessons, will take part, but the rest of the entertainment is youthful and amateur. The school jazz ensemble, bagpipers and Irish step dancers will also perform.

Only the weather is uncertain. If it rains, the festival moves into the school gym and cafeteria.

"We will have llamas wandering the halls," said Heller.

The festival runs from 6 p.m. to 8: 30 p.m. today in Cooper Park, Cooper Drive and Route 32. Information: 410-751-3545.

Pub Date: 5/19/99

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