Whitney Young Jr. Elementary’s World Cultural Diversity Day Fosters International-mindedness

Whitney Young dancing

This guest post is by Cabrina Bosco, Primary Years Programme Coordinator at Whitney Young Jr. Elementary in Louisville, Kentucky.

“You didn’t put it up right! It is upside down! Why is it like that?” students exclaimed when they looked at the giant world map posted on the wall.

The map, from WiseGuyMaps, was right side up but had a different perspective of the world with south oriented toward the top. One of the goals of hosting an International Potluck on World Cultural Diversity Day on May 21st at Whitney Young Jr. Elementary was to remind us that there are many ways to look at the world and to rethink our presumptions about who we are and where we all come from.

Whitney Young Jr. Elementary is a magnet school for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP). It is an urban, Title I public school that serves a population of ethnically and linguistically diverse learners from across the wide school district of Jefferson County.  As an IB World School, we strive to foster international-mindedness in our community by acknowledging and celebrating commonalities and differences. This also goes hand-in-hand with the district’s cultural competence initiative to encourage awareness and relationship-building between staff and the families we serve.

This project made possible by NAESP and MetLife Foundation’s Sharing the Dream grant program was realized through the efforts of the school’s School Culture and IB Design Committees who collaborated to plan the event and make certain both in-school and community-based groups took part.

The committees considered the transportation issues of many of our families. Many children do not get home until after 5 p.m., so instead of having them trek back to school at 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. (which would have also meant a late night for all involved), activities were planned to occur directly after dismissal. Over 90 students stayed with parental permission and rotated through various interactive sessions including three types of cultural dances, crafts and food.

Students were taught European and Latin dance steps by other students and visiting dancers. Teachers and parents led craft stations where children decorated Dia de los Muertos designs, made tissue paper flowers for table decorations, tasted escargot and made guacamole for the potluck.

“My favorite part was seeing how people from all the different countries dressed, how they danced and what they did for fun. I also liked the different types of food! I’m used to eating my mom’s food, but I liked trying different types of food to see how it tastes,” said 5th grader, Amanda Castro Diaz.

Between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m., families arrived to a colorful, decorated cafeteria for the International Potluck bringing with them tasty dishes reflecting a variety of cultures. To begin the evening, our principal, Mary Minyard,  addressed the families (with translation devices available) and brought awareness of the need to be appreciative, tolerant and accepting of cultural diversity.

“Tonight we are here to commemorate World Cultural Diversity Day,” Minyard said. “Young Elementary exemplifies cultural diversity. It is one of our strengths. Students at Young strive to exhibit the IB learner profile, which includes being communicators, open-minded and risk-takers.”

During the event, participants were encouraged to visit and talk with community groups at informational tables, look at cultural displays about various countries made by students, and to decorate a fabric square to be assembled into a Community Quilt.

All in all, based on the attendance of more than 220 participants and their responses, the event was a huge success. The Young Elementary community embraced its diversity and united in a celebration of the richness of its cultures.

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Sharing the Dream

Grants for pre-K-8 school projects that create global classrooms where children—and families—can safely connect, exchange ideas and learn together.

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