Smiles and laughter filled the classrooms of Seaford Manor Elementary School during the week of Jan. 7 as the students sampled different cultures and traditions for International Week.
“International Week is a week that everybody looks forward to at the Manor school,” Assistant Principal Mary-Ellen Kakalos said.
The annual event was first started about 15 years ago by the school’s Shared Decision Making (SDM) committee, according to Kakalos.
Each year the SDM committee decides on a different focus for international week.
“Its really important just to celebrate the diversity that we have in our lives and in our families and around the world, to expose our students to different cultures,” Kakalos said.
This year, students created passports for the first time, according to Kakalos. “Each family filled it out, so it is their Manor School passport,” she said. “They filled it out based on which country their family came from and some places that they want to visit and travel [to].”
Principal Debra Emmerich said international week allows families to become actively involved in their children’s education. “We have a wonderful opportunity to learn about other cultures first-hand and it is fascinating for students,” she said. “They’re proud to co-present with their parents, which is really nice to see. Everyone benefits from learning something new.”
Emmerich explained that when she attended Morris Avenue Elementary School in Rockville Centre, international week involved foods from different countries. Because of allergy policies, Seaford Manor follows, the school cannot offer food anymore. Yet during the 2018 international week, all the students shared their favorite international recipes in a school wide recipe book.
International week has grown since last year. The 2019 event involved different cultural experiences through games, dances, music, videos and guest speakers. “People bring in clothing and jewelry and artifacts,” Emmerich added.
Toni Ann Sorrentino, mother of 7-year-old Luciana Sorrentino, visited the school’s auditorium on Jan. 10 to teach the tarantella to the second graders in Jean Marie Aplustille’s and Amy Dubin’s classes. The tarantella is an Italian dance that includes quick, light steps and flirtatious behavior, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The students gathered into several circles and grasped each other’s hands, jumping with excitement, in seeming eagerness to start the dance. Classmates smiled while walking in a circular pattern, clapping and giggling as two people linked arms and spun in the middle, with wide grins on their faces.
Sorrentino told the students the story behind the dance’s history: “A tarantula bit a beautiful girl and she fell into a deep sleep,” she said. “It was known that if you danced and you stomped your feet and you clapped and you were very loud and you were having fun that the poison would come out and she would be cured.”
Sorrentino, who is half-Sicilian, explained how she grew up dancing the tarantella at parties. “It brings a lot of happiness and joy,” she said. Daughter Luciana said her favorite part of dancing was when she spun around in the middle of a circle of her fellow students.
The following day, music teacher Rich Adams introduced Aplustille’s second-grade class to Los Tachos — a traditional dance from southwestern France. The students walked around in a circle holding sticks in one hand and covering their giggling mouths with the others. Every few steps excited students would skip for a moment, unable to contain their joy. As the music changed, students turned to their partners and began creating rhythmic sounds by swatting their sticks together. “I’m embracing the curriculum of international themes by incorporating dances from various countries around the world,” Adams said.
It is important for the students to learn international dances, according to Adams. “It helps to understand that there is a whole world out there, and in that world there’s a lot of traditions [and] a lot of fun things,” he said.
Shrieks were heard in the gym as more second-grade students ran around playing the game koolchee from Australia. The game is named after the koolchee ball, which is used in the game to knock into a skittle — a bowling pin — or another ball, according to the Australian Sports Commission. Physical education teacher Dianne Dunn said the game originated from aboriginal inhabitants of the contintent, who created balls out of mud and gypsum.
Dunn said international week has opened her eyes to games the students would not normally play in physical education.
Guest speakers, like Pooja Hathiramani, the mother of first-grader Diya Hathiramani, also visited Seaford Manor during international week. Hathiramani dressed in a traditional Indian sari and shared information, artifacts and experiences from her home with a group of wide-eyed first-graders.
Students also experienced artwork in teacher Jamie LaSota’s class. Sheets of paper seemed to come alive as second grade students recreated paintings by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh in a wide variety of colors. “I think it’s important for children to learn about different artists from different countries, because they don’t get to see it everyday,” LaSota said.