Students go around the world in 80 minutes

The kids at Sumner/Danbury took a trip around the globe on Wednesday and returned enriched by their exposure to the cultures of the world.

It was Multicultural Day for the two Claremont schools, who share adjoining campuses and resources. Teachers and their young charges studied up on their respective nations and transformed their classrooms in time for the yearly event as well as for the evening open house that followed.

Joe Tonan’s sixth graders have been immersed in Tibet, learning about the South Asian country and engaging in projects like crafting mandalas. The kids’ multicultural celebration got started early when a Tibetan Buddhist monk stopped by his Sumner classroom.

At one point, one of the students asked him if he was angry at the Chinese for invading his nation. Mr. Sharp, who is a refugee, gave a measured reply. “He said, ‘I’m not happy with them but if I hate them, I cause pain to others and myself,’” Mr. Tonan shared.

Mr. Sharp left a souvenir of his visit on the board, his name written in intricate Tibetan characters. Students of every grade, with “passports” hanging around their necks, took turns rotating through classrooms on a cross-continental journey. While in Tibet, they made a string of prayer flags.

Fifth grader Lilka Clocksin, whose classroom had become a little piece of the Philippines, said she was having a great time going around, meeting new friends and exploring.

She said the most interesting thing she learned about the Philippines was about Jeepneys, which are large buses and Jeeps that are covered with bright paint and lettering. They first came about, she shared, when the US military left their Jeeps behind after the end of World War II and they proved useful for public transportation.

Some local teens, students from Claremont High School’s French and German clubs, joined in helping Sumner students with their Multicultural Day festivities. In fifth grade

Sophomore Angelina Kocharyan was helping serve crepes with Nutella filling to kids visiting Carolyn Magallanes’ sixth grade class. Ms. Magallanes’ students had soaked up information on the Tour de France, the Louvre and artwork within like the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower. Sumner librarian Marleene Bazela, who speaks French, contributed by teaching the kids a few key words and phrases in the romance language. 

Angelina chose to take French because her grandmother knew the language and “it’s kind of an old family tradition. ” She said it was a great experience, finding herself back on an elementary school campus.

“It’s really nostalgic. It really brings me back to childhood,” she said.

“The crepes are good, especially with the Nutella, fifth grader Allison Cooke said. Allison reported that her class had studied Germany.

“We had to learn about monuments and choose one and then write a postcard to our parents from it,” she said, noting that she had chosen to correspond with her folks from Europa-Park, the second most popular theme park in Europe. 

The COURIER caught up with one of Ms. Magallanes’ students, sixth grade Zander Lopez, as he visited Jason Remedios’ fifth-grade class, which was designated as England.

Visitors were encouraged to enjoy a cup of tea with milk and a biscuit, to watch slideshow of iconic British sights like red phone booths and the London Bridge and to root for the Arsenal football team, a personal favorite of Mr. Remedios, who is a soccer fan.

“It’s nice to explore different cultures, and it’s nice to have high school students giving back, sharing our activities and being a part of elementary school again,” he said.

Zander said he most enjoyed visiting London and Germany the most because there were a lot of attractions. Asked whether he was ready to move on from Elementary School, he sounded pretty sure of himself.

“I feel ready for El Roble,” he said.”

Elaine Anderson is teaching Sumner’s first transitional kindergarten class—a course aimed at the “young fives” who are not quite old enough to start kindergarten. She opted to collaborate with the school’s first grade classes in the study of India.

The room was hung with a multicolored canopy of orange, pink and red like you would see at an Indian celebration like a wedding. The students had used clay to make tiny lanterns with battery-powered candles to represent the Indian holiday of Diwali or the festival of light. They had also earlier in the day helped the kids calm down with some yoga exercises.

That night at open house, Ms. Anderson planned to play Indian music and to turn out the lights and illuminate the candles for a dramatic moment. The students had also made T-shirts emblazoned with the distinctive Indian flag, with a wheel sandwiched between orange and green stripes.

Enrichment opportunities abounded at every turn.

In Debbie Plumley’s second-grade class, aka Ghana, visitors were invited to learn about the different kinds of African cloth and then make their own tie-die square of fabric. And in one of the classes where Australia was the focus, guests not only were able to learn about landmarks like the endangered Great Barrier Reef. They were able to meet a real-life Australian, albeit one who is now a US transplant living in New York.

Derek Lindsell, who hails from Melbourne, taught the young travelers to say “G’day” and presided as students got a taste of both the bitter—Vegemite yeast and salt spread—and the sweet—Tim Tam chocolate biscuits and got a bit of a geography lesson. 

After the students had made an Aboriginal-style dot painting, Mr. Lindsell placed a to-scale picture of Australia over the US map.

“The land mass is almost the same, but Australia has only 23 million residents while the US has a population of 320 million,” he said.

Joseph Cuberbo, a 12-year-old Danbury student, was obviously impressed. Asked which country he would like to experience, he said, “If I could, I’d visit Australia.”

—Sarah Torribio


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