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Let’s travel the world through education

Taylor Eisenman, of the Record staff

Second-grade students at Parley’s Park stand as Helen Swan enters the room. "Good morning Mrs. Swan," they say. The children are learning how English students start their day in the classroom as part of a series of 30-minute cultural presentations on countries from around the world.

On Thursday, Swan presented on England, her native country. One of her main points that she impressed upon the children was how ancient a country England is in comparison to America.

She brought in old photographs of cars and the store where her family once sold candy. She showed the students a painting of her family’s 300-year-old home where six generations, including herself, were born.

For Swan, it’s essential for students to learn about the world outside of where they live. "People may have different languages, religions, skin colors, attitudes, but at the core of it, we’re all just the same," she said. "We all respond to laughter, love and friendship."

In order to really let the kids get a feel for English traditions, she brought in things like pounds, school uniforms and inventions, as well as talked about the country’s famous people and landmarks, its common foods, and language differences, like the English word for "lift," which is our "elevator."

"I want to stress that, yes, America is a great country, but there are many other great countries, and we can learn a lot from them," she said. "It is critical because in today’s political climate and state of affairs, we’ve got to be looking outward."

Second-grade teacher, Randee Kadziel, said that not only are these presentations a good way for kids to learn about countries outside of the U.S., but they work strongly with the core curriculum as well.

"I started doing these cultural presentations about 15 years ago when I worked at McPolin," she said. "They’re great because reading, writing and map skills are all incorporated."

After the presentation, students came back to their classroom to work on their passports, which have their photographs and flags from the countries they’re learning about on them.

The series started with Scott Doughman presenting Japan on Nov. 27. Students have already leaned about Japan, France, Germany and England. Within the next couple of weeks, they plan to have presentations on Italy, Bulgaria, Africa, Australia, Scotland, Peru, Thailand, Mexico, and even Alaska (an exception to the country guidelines).

What the kids say

Parley’s Park Elementary Second-graders speak out about why they like these cultural presentations and feel they are important.

"I like how the coins are different and have different names."

– Matt Gustafson

"You get to learn about what kinds of things different countries do."

– Katie Datzman

"I like learning about all about the countries and what they do differently at school."

– Connor Ball

"I’ve been getting lots of ideas of where I can go on my birthday."

– William Martz

"I like how the English flag was put together with three other flags."

– Ronnie Dragoo

"I like learning about the different traditions."

– Maddy Welbelow

"I like that I get to learn about the countries’ languages and history."

– Ryan McDonald

"It’s cool learning about all the different flags and what colors they are."

– Alyssa Mcculloch

"I liked the England presentation because I got to learn that most of the things we have came from England."

– Zia Walther


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