Children celebrate diversity -- and have a ball


April 11, 2000|By Pamela Woolford | Pamela Woolford,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

RECENTLY, TWO elementary schools held festivals to celebrate the diverse international heritage of their pupils.

Talbott Springs Elementary sponsored an International Night on March 30 with pupil performances, a professional flamenco dance company and ethnic displays.

On Thursday, Phelps Luck Elementary held an International Festival with presentations from 32 speakers, including parents and former Peace Corps volunteers. Each guest spoke to two to five classes throughout the day, sharing firsthand knowledge and folk tales about countries as disparate as Micronesia (a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean), Ghana and Australia.

That evening, Phelps Luck Elementary pupils returned to school with family members to present and attend more activities.

"In the evening, our cafeteria becomes the village square with music and dancing from India, Scotland and Africa," said Krista Wheatley-Heckman, chairwoman of the International Day Committee of the Phelps Luck PTA.

"The gym is an international restaurant and museum with 25 families setting displays and tasting opportunities," she said. "The media center is the quietest spot, with six crafts from around the world that children can make and take home. It is a wonderful community celebration."

Phelps Luck Elementary's pupil population represents more than 30 nations, Wheatley-Heckman said.

"When I discovered the diversity of the families at our school, I was inspired to plan a festival, so we could learn about that diversity and celebrate," said Wheatley-Heckman, who organized the school's first International Festival last year.

Parents Wendy Weidemann, Dawn Sellers and Dorcas Adu assisted Wheatley-Heckman with this year's event. Jared Denhard, who has four children who attend Phelps Luck Elementary, helped organize the musical presentations and performed with his Afro-Celtic band Keltia.

A week earlier, at Talbott Springs Elementary's international festival, Arte Flamenco, a Laurel dance troupe, performed.

"It was really exciting," said Marijane Monck, a reading and math teacher who handled publicity for the event. "Little kids were up by the stage just riveted, watching them. They were just moved by this music."

Ivette Mercade, a third-grade teacher at Talbott Springs, sang the Spanish song "Alcansar una Estrella" ("To Reach for a Star"). Third-graders performed songs from around the world for a school assembly titled "A Small Part of the World."

Evening activities included face-painting, Japanese origami (paper-folding), the African stone game Mancala and Mexican paper-cutting. Display tables featured a variety of goods, including Mexican pinatas and Native-American kachina dolls. Tasting opportunities included fried banana empanadas from El Salvador and Italian biscotti.

Pam Vogel, chairwoman of the International Night Committee of the Talbott Springs Elementary PTA, organized the event with assistance from Bill Wade, the school's Black Student Achievement representative; Rosa Pope, an English as a Second Language (ESL) staff member; Pam Mitchell, an ESL teacher; Vince D'Antuono, a second-grade teacher; Carrie Loughry, a music teacher; and Sharon Higdon, an art teacher. School custodians Theodore George and Allen Anderson assisted with setup and cleanup.

Like the festival at Phelps Luck, the Talbott Springs event offered an opportunity for children to celebrate their heritage.

"You could just see the pride in their country and culture in the displays," said Monck.

Educator of the Year

The Howard County Chamber of Commerce has announced seven finalists for its Educator of the Year award. Nominated by school faculty members, the finalists include Steven Buettner, a fourth-grade teacher at Hammond Elementary School, and Kathy Kreidler, assistant principal at Waterloo Elementary.

The finalists will be honored at a community awards ceremony April 26. At the event, one of the honorees will be named Educator of the Year.

Tickets are $30.

Information: 410-730-4111, Ext. 101.

Orchestra festival

At the Howard County Orchestra Festival on March 28 and 29, Long Reach High School, Oakland Mills Middle School and Owen Brown Middle School orchestras each received a "superior" rating, the highest in a five-level ranking system.

Deborah Varga directed Long Reach High's orchestra, and Philip Hale directed the two middle school orchestras.

Sponsored by the Howard County Public School System, the festival is an annual event.

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