J.F. Burns celebrates multicultural school community

J.F. Burns Elementary School celebrated its diversity with a multicultural fair. At one station, students learned about the Indian body art form Mehndi. CONTRIBUTED
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J.F. Burns Elementary School celebrated its diversity with a multicultural fair. At one station, students learned about the Indian body art form Mehndi. CONTRIBUTED

Students encouraged to from each other.

J.F. Burns Elementary School students recently traveled around the world, celebrating the school’s diverse population during a multicultural night.

Approximately 275 students and their families attended the event filled with food and fun activities representing 25 different countries.

“The desire to celebrate our growing diversity is what sparked the idea of our multicultural night,” said JFB Assistant Principal Jenny Wilson, who helped organize the fair. “All children need to feel valued in our school, and it is important that a school demonstrates and models valuing all children and their families.”

J.F. Burns Elementary has a diverse population with 21 different languages spoken and 19 nationalities represented, including Mexico, Venezuela, Guatemala, India, China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Burma/Myanmar, Malaysia, Japan, Russia, Romania, Belarus, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel and Ethiopia.

Wilson said this diversity positively impacts the school’s culture — from the variety of languages and customs to different lunch foods, games played during recess and greetings.

“People across the world and, therefore, students in our school do things differently, and we can all learn from each other,” she said. “We hope (the multicultural night celebration) will encourage our students to recognize different perspectives, at their level, as well. The need to feel included and a part of a group is a basic need. Young children are so open to accepting, and sometimes don’t even notice differences. We wanted to continue to foster this.”

As students arrived at the celebration, they were given a “passport,” which was stamped as they visited each country’s station. At the different centers, guests could find information about a particular country. Many of the countries offered food samples and crafts, like Japanese calligraphy and the Indian body art form Mehndi, in which decorative designs are created with a paste made from dry leaves of the henna plant.

Additionally, cultural performances were put on by students in their native languages. For example, Russian students performed a play and played guitars. Indian students danced and included students from the audience.

In addition to Wilson, J.F. Burns staff Karen Gonzalez and Laura Acierno and parents Emily Sander, Kim Tuggle and Cheryl Wanner coordinated the event. They hope the evening will become a tradition for the school.

The fair was paid for through a grant written by Deerfield United Methodist Church.

Contact this contributing writer at lisa.knodel@gmail.com.

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