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Connecting cultures through holiday traditions

Kentwood — “The families come together to eat pork, turkey, ham, rice, beans, vegetables and fruit,” said Southwood second-grade teacher Ashley Bauman, reading from a slide in her classroom.

“Does anyone eat some of these foods for the holidays?” Bauman asked the class; student Lyla Robinson noted that the foods were very similar to the foods her family eats on Christmas Day.

On the next slide, Bauman read about how, on Christmas Day, Brazilians go to the beach.

“That is different in that they go into the water and we have snow,” said Delray Anderson. 

On the final slide, Bauman read, “Brazilians celebrate through Three Kings Day,” and the entire classroom got excited, noting other countries that do the same thing.

Sofia Hart, left, answers a question about Brazil as teacher Ashley Bauman and classmate Allison Jackimowicz look on

During the month of December, students in Bauman and Jen Ursum’s second-grade classes have been learning about holidays around the world and the ways in which they are celebrated. 

“The idea is to give the students an opportunity to explore other places, different beliefs, the different cultures and the different holidays,” Bauman said. “It gives them the opportunity to see what the different cultures and traditions are and how they are similar to the ones they celebrate.”

Discovering Similarities in Different Cultures

For 22 days, the students explored 13 different countries, such as Brazil, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, France and Germany. Bauman read a short story about the traditions of a specific country. The students then broke into groups, using laptops to read the story together and then answer questions and write short sentences about what they learned. 

Once done with the assignment, the students then “flew” to the country by exploring it through Google Maps.

Bauman said using the laptops exposes the students to technology as they learn to work through the story slides, practice typing on a keyboard and utilize Google Maps to explore the country. 

Second-grade students in Ashley Bauman’s class listen to a story about the holiday traditions in Brazil

The 4Cs of education — creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking — could easily be seen as Chloe Joseph and Melleah Maiden worked together to write about what they had learned about Brazil. Chloe carefully sounded out the word “January” as Melleah checked the spelling from a poster on the wall.

When done, the two read over their sentence to check it.

“The Three Kings Day is on Jan. 6 for Brazil people,” they read.

Sharing Their Own Traditions

Another outcome of the study is that students are able to share information about their own familial and cultural traditions, Bauma said. For example, second-grader Zakir Sheikhnoor is from Saudi Arabia, where they celebrate Ramadan.

“We don’t eat or drink water until sunset,” Zakir told his fellow students. “We wake up before the sun rises to eat.”

Zakir also talked about Eid al-Fitr, Arabic for “festival of breaking fast,” which commemorates the end of Ramadan.

“At home, we basically say, ‘Happy Eid al-Fitr day,’” he said.

Classmate Allison Jackinowicz appreciated Zakir sharing and said her favorite country was Saudi Arabia because she thought the traditions were “cool.”

Her project partner, Sofia Hart, said she liked Mexico because “the ocean is beautiful.”

“Germany, because my uncle is there,” said Mar’Quan White as to what his favorite country is. “I also like the custom that the person who finds the pickle in the tree has good luck the whole year.”

Mar’Quan’s partner, Koleson Prince, said he liked Brazil because of its flag.

“And you can see (Brazil) from space,” Koleson said as he showed off his bracelet of the planets. “I love space and telescopes.”

Read more from Kentwood: 
What is your dream?’ Students interview each other
Students & grandpas connect through cards, hugs, common languages

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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