From Santa to koala bears

Kids glimpse culture, holiday traditions from around the globe

December 17, 2006|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Sun Reporter

The table in front of Rose Hess was covered with crafts and foods from the Philippines.

The items included a miniature bamboo house scene in a bottle, and a bowl of noodles and vegetables that represent long life in her native country, said Hess, a Robert Moton Elementary School assistant teacher.

A few feet away, Aratha Smith, a teacher with the Families Learning Together program, displayed foods and clothing from Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria. Smith also showcased a Kwanzaa candle holder called a kinara, and two wooden crocodiles that her uncle brought to the family 60 years ago.

Another table held books about Christmas in Australia and coloring book pictures of koala bears.

"It's summer in Australia, so Santa Claus wears Bermuda shorts and families have dinner on the beach," said Tammie Polk, Judy Center parent involvement coordinator. "Their songs are different because there's no snow, so it's interesting that they had to change their songs."

The displays were part of the Judy Center's monthly activity for parents and their children, ages birth to 5 years. "Holidays Around the World" also included Christmas as it is celebrated here in the United States.

"What we want to promote is parents doing things with their children," said Polk, who plans the monthly activity. "We have seven domains we have to cover, and this is social studies that we combined with the holidays. It's about the continents and what they do the same or different for Christmas."

The Judy Center is a state legislated, school readiness program funded by a grant from the Maryland State Department of Education, said Susan Mitchell, the center's coordinator.

"Our goal is helping children be ready to learn when they come to school," Mitchell said.

The center's staff of seven works out of a portable classroom at Robert Moton. They work with families of young kids as well as day care centers in various areas of health, development, literacy, nonviolence and assessments.

Mitchell expects to serve more than 600 children this school year through training, home visits, monthly programs and the center's resource library.

About 20 families filled Robert Moton's cafeteria Wednesday evening for the holiday activity. Parents and preschoolers went from table to table sampling various foods and making a craft from each continent.

Children carried a paper with a passport from each country for which they received a flag sticker after visiting that table, checking out the foods and making a craft. There was even a duty free table where the youngsters decorated paper bags to hold their crafts.

Key Club members from Westminster and Winters Mill high schools staffed the craft tables and helped the children make a hand cutout picture frame, a bead necklace or bracelet, a paper mat, or a koala bear with Santa hat.

Asbury Joe Francis Jr., 17 months, wandered around the cafeteria with a puff puff ball from the African table in one hand and an iced sugar cookie from America in the other, while his sister Angel Mia, a pre-kindergartener at Robert Moton, made a hand cutout with her mother, Rosalie, another native Filipino.

"Two of my teachers are here," Angel said proudly, pointing them out.

At the African table, Trey Bates, 5, a kindergartner at the school, made a bead bracelet. "They helped me pick out the beads," Trey said. "We put a blue one on, too."

Trey's father, Will Bates, said the family attended the Judy Center's November activity and "we enjoyed it, so we came back."

After getting his African continent sticker, Trey went to the Philippines table to make a paper mat similar to the one that Hess had on display. The colorful mat is what the islanders sleep on, Hess said. But Trey said he did not want to sleep on such a thin mat.

Laura Zepp followed her children, McKenzie, 5, and Ethan, 4, both Robert Moton students, around to the different tables, helping them make crafts. After creating her bead necklace, McKenzie went over to Smith, who hooked it in her hair with a barrette.

From there, the Zepps went to the duty free table to color bags. Ethan even shared his pink marker with Angel Mia, who was also decorating a bag.

"We've come to all three events this year," said Laura Zepp. "They have great activities. We love it, and it's great to spend time with my kids and have fun."

ellie.baublitz@baltsun.com

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