By Lindsay Lanteri
Most of the students we work with were born in DC and have never been outside of the District; many are only familiar with their own neighborhoods or the quadrant they live in. At Ketcham Elementary School, in the neighborhood of Anacostia, corps members wanted to share their love and passion for diversity and world culture with the students and expose them to different languages, food, music, dance, sports and art that vary from what the students are familiar with.
Corps members created a unique after school program for the students focused on world cultures. For the past two months students learned about all seven continents with one week of instruction and activities devoted to each continent. Within each week, lessons were designed around art, music and dance, theater, sports and other culturally relevant themes. Students learned how to tango and waltz, relaxed their minds through practicing yoga, learned how to discipline their bodies through the practice of basic martial arts, created African masks, Chinese lanterns and Aboriginal cave drawings, participated in a mini Olympics and learned a variety of phrases in different languages from around the world. In the final week of the World Cultures Unit students worked diligently to help prepare for Culture Fest, an event honoring the diverse backgrounds and cultures that make up the world around us. Students created visual aids, conducted research and helped set up classrooms to represent the different continents.
The celebration was open to the entire student body, parents, families and friends of students, with the goal being to showcase the knowledge our students gained about other cultures around the world and to gain a greater sense of cultural awareness and our connection to others. During the event students rotated between continents: they danced the tango and tasted fried plantains in South America, played a game of sharks and minnows down under in Australia, sampled éclairs and made their own soap creations in Europe, experimented with chop sticks in Asia and even made their very own candy sushi. Finally in Africa there was a mini soccer tournament, and students tried chin-chin, a traditional West African snack. The students were transported to the different continents without so much as having to step foot on an airplane, but simply from experiencing the emulsion of tastes, sounds and colors that took over a traditional elementary school classroom and transformed it into a Parisian Café, the Great Barrier Reef, a street in China during a parade for the New Year, an Argentine Tango Club and a soccer field in Africa. Corps members brought these various cultures to the students and infused a sense of the greater globe into the walls of Ketcham Elementary School giving the students an unforgettable opportunity to explore, imagine and travel the world.