School celebrates world cultures

For 5 days, pupils at Gorman Crossing learn of life, language, geography of other nations

April 30, 2006|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In a kindergarten classroom at Gorman Crossing Elementary School last week, pupils had the opportunity to learn about Australia from a woman who had lived there as a child.

Third-graders were learning the value of Mexican coins as part of their math units. And second-graders were exploring the foods of Europe.

The activities were part of a program called Around the World In Five Days, which was organized by Principal Cheryl Gail.

"It's kind of a celebration of the fact that all world cultures come together to make the United States," she said.

Each grade was given a continent to study, and it was up to the teachers to decide how to incorporate lessons in geography, language, current events and more into their regular curriculums.

"We didn't really have any set standards - it was sort of what we could squeeze in," said Amanda Kuhl, a first-grade teacher.

She said first-graders were learning about North America, with a particular focus on Mexico. They had devoted part of their week to learning Spanish phrases, geography and more.

Kindergartners combined math skills with their study of Australia by making charts showing which Australian animal they liked best - the kangaroo, dingo, koala or emu. (The koala was the most popular.)

And pupils in Sharon Chen's kindergarten class got to hear about the continent from somebody who had grown up there - Adrienne Trainor, the mother of a fifth-grader and a substitute teacher at the school. "Whenever we do things like this, I volunteer," Trainor said.

As the children sat on the carpet, Trainor, who spoke in an Australian accent and brought along a suitcase of props, sat on the floor with them, talking about the continent. Using a globe, she showed the children where Australia is in relation to Maryland and that it is an island.

Holding an Australian flag, she explained that the stars are in the configuration of the Southern Cross, a constellation visible in the Southern Hemisphere.

Trainor also showed pupils a cricket bat and emu egg. She said people in Australia speak English, but some of their words are different than in the United States. French fries, for example, are called crisps in Australia, and ketchup is known as tomato sauce, she said.

Discussions about language had also had taken place in second grade, which was studying Europe. Each class had been given a different country to study. Paul Newell, 8, in Kristen Colleli's class, was learning Italian. He knew that prego means please. He also knew that the Italian flag is red, white and green. Vanessa Pham, 7, knew several words, including grazie for thank you, ciao for hello and buon giorno for good day.

On Thursday, most of the second-grade classes were enjoying foods that represented the countries they were studying.

Teacher Heather Kim was making crepes for France, Colleli was making pizzas for Italy, and Jackie Grice was making chocolate-chip cookies for England.

Of course, chocolate-chip cookies are not a particularly English food, but Grice, apparently, is a realist.

"My kids aren't going to like shepherd's pie or fish and chips," she said.

Because cookies are called biscuits in England, she decided that was connection enough - she baked the cookies, called them biscuits and served them to her pupils.

But it wasn't all sweet treats in Grice's class. Using laptops from a mobile computer lab, pupils were doing online research about England and would make a poster with their findings, Grice said. The room was decorated with English flags that the children had colored.

"They figured out that the flag was made from the English flag, the Irish flag and the Scottish flag, all put together," Grice said. "I didn't even know that, until this week."

Pupils had learned how British and American differ, showing a fascination for words like "bobby" instead of police officer and "rubbish" instead of trash, she said.

Matthew Bisson, 8, said he has enjoyed learning about France, particularly the history.

Kevin Kane, 7, eating a crepe dusted in generous amounts of powdered sugar, also seemed enthusiastic.

"Today, I like it best of all because we get to try foods from a different country," he said, licking bits of sugar off his fork.

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