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From Ireland to India, Students Tour Holidays Around the Globe


West Oakview fourth-graders Emmanuel Self, left, and Jahari Tackett get down to learning about holidays in Germany

Yes, Christmas is coming, and Hanukkah just happened, to the delight of kids across America. How are other children around the world celebrating the holidays? A couple of local classrooms sent their students on a quest to find out.

Forest Hills Ada Vista Elementary

It was a multi-country whirlwind for kindergartners recently at the district’s Spanish immersion school, as classes learned about holidays around the world.

The young adventurers learned about Hanukkah in Jerusalem; Las Posadas in Mexico City; Reyes Magos in Cuba; Diwali in India; and, to celebrate Christmas in the U.S., taking a trip to Bethlehem.

Ada Vista’s Jayven Anthony, left, and Jordan Leyder prepare to disembark in Cuba to learn about Reyes Magos

Leading up to the week, students learned about the featured cultures’ geography, songs, food and modes of transportation — all in Español, of course. Passports they made themselves were stamped at each country, and they colored and made crafts to commemorate their travels, which they carried in manila folder “suitcases.”

Northview West Oakview Elementary

Colleen Heyboer’s fourth-graders broke into teams to research other countries’ holiday traditions, write up their findings, then present visual displays and serve a tasty dish at a party on Thursday.

Passport: check. Suitcase: check. Ada Vista kindergartner Harper Hall is ready to travel

At least one student from each project group had family from that country. Besides Christmas and Hanukkah, they learned about holidays such as Saint Stephen’s Day and Three Kings’ Day.

“I really want them to gain an understanding of different cultures, and to kind of open their minds that not every (tradition) is what we have here,” Heyboer said. “Also, I wanted to connect to their heritage.”

Jet Troyer liked the Christmas traditions of Ireland, where “on Christmas Eve they light candles, and the week before Christmas they sing carols all around the neighborhood.” Also, he added, “They have almost all my favorite foods, especially pumpkin pie.”

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey is editor-in-chief of SNN, and covers series and issues stories for all districts. As a reporter for The Grand Rapids Press/mLive from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years and its columnist for 20. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion News Service and Faith & Leadership magazine. Read Charles' full bio

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