HURRICANE – Sixth- and seventh-graders at Hurricane Intermediate School got a full dose of culture for lunch Tuesday after students pulled together with administrators and staff to create a cultural exhibit in the student commons area that would nourish the mind along with the body.
Before lunch began, “peer mediators,” along with school counselor Farol Hunter, set up tables covered in artifacts representing 11 different cultures from around the world to broaden the perspectives of the students.
Among the cultures represented were: Jewish, Guatemalan, Mexican, Navajo and Choctaw Native American tribes, Chinese, Malaysian, African, Costa Rican, Indian and Honduran.
First, the 7th-grade class flooded the room, getting their food and sitting down to eat and listen as Hunter worked to garner their attention. As they ate, students learned of the many represented cultures and were enticed by a candy treat that awaited them at the end of the wall of learning provided.
Each student who successfully filled out a questionnaire chronicling the historical significance of each culture represented received a Dum Dum pop in return for the time invested to gain additional perspective about the world.
The purpose for the exhibit was twofold, Hunter said – the first being to celebrate the wide variety of cultures and backgrounds represented.
The second purpose was helping students better understand and preserve their own individual family heritages because, sadly, Hunter said, many young students are not raised celebrating, or even knowing about, where their customs came from.
“I want them to understand more of why they think what they do,” she said, “because we’re part of our background, we’re part of our current ground, but we’re part of our background, too – our family values come from our cultures, and I don’t want us to lose those.”
Principal Brad Christensen said he prefers to think of the term “melting pot” as a beautifully orchestrated symphony in which each instrument’s role is essential to the collective opportunity to create.
Likening each culture represented to a specific instrument, without which the orchestra would not achieve its greatness of sound, Christensen said:
So, you don’t lose your individuality of being a bass player just because you’re part of the orchestra. You’re still a bass player, and that’s fantastic and wonderful and let’s celebrate it, because we need the bass player and we need the violinist, and working together, the music (becomes) a great metaphor for that, because you have some harmonies that happen when the rhythm isn’t always exactly the same, but when you hear a great symphonic piece it’s emotional and it’s uplifting and that’s how I view it – more than a ‘melting pot.’
Sixth-grade student Haylee Scholzen, who is of African descent, said it was tough being an Enterprise Junior Rodeo princess attendant, because people treated her differently than the other girls because of her skin color.
“When we handed out autographs and stuff, there was a lot of people that didn’t want to get mine because of my culture and my skin color,” Scholzen said. “And I just thought, ‘Let’s be nice to everyone. Everyone’s different and everyone has feelings.’”
People don’t always think before they speak, Scholzen said, and sometimes the things they say can be hurtful, even when they don’t mean them to be. For instance, she said, she was adopted by a non-black family, and people ask questions all the time about the difference in skin color without consideration for the emotions their questions may invoke.
“My friends ask about it like, ‘Oh, are you adopted?’ or, ‘Did your parents just not want you or anything?’” Scholzen said. “But I explain to them … and I understand, some kids just don’t know and they just say stuff that maybe wasn’t really needed to be said.”
A great moment during the exhibit, Scholzen said, was when she was looking at the tables with a friend of hers and found a table devoted to African culture. Sharing new information with her friend, she said, she was excited at her friend’s enthusiasm for her traditions, and it made her feel good inside.
Part of the importance of cultural events like these for students who are in their formative years, Christensen said, is the opportunity to expand their understanding of the world around them.
Student Zerrik Herpin’s mother, father and grandmother were in attendance Tuesday and let curious students ask them about life in Honduras and what kinds of traditions were passed from one generation to the next.
Many of the celebrations from his culture center around food and family, Zerrik said, sharing that his favorite cuisine is a soup called mondongo that is made from the lining of a cow’s stomach.
“My family, all of us make it, and I just like it,” he said.
It is important for people to learn about new and different foods and clothing styles and ways of living from different cultures, so they won’t judge each other based on a lack of understanding, said sixth-grade student Secoya Goodfellow, who helped put the event together with Hunter.
Goodfellow is a “peer mediator,” and with the title comes great responsibility. Along with other “peer mediators,” Goodefellow’s role in the student body is to help students who are in disagreement talk through their differences and work toward a peaceful resolution.
Some conflicts are more difficult to resolve than others, she said, but understanding goes a long way in the end.
“Understanding people – when they know how they believe (something) or why they believe (something) – it’s good to know,” Goodfellow said, “because you don’t just judge people for what they believe in, and then you know more about it.”
This event will be one in a string of many throughout the upcoming years, Christensen said, explaining he would like to expand on the idea until Hunter has a row of tables all the way around the commons area for the students to learn from. Whether it’s 11 tables or 35, he said, as long as the students are engaged and learning from the opportunity, it’s well worth the time invested.
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