McPolin Elementary School celebrates diversity with multicultural festival

Students in kindergarten through fifth grade created performances to honor their teachers' home countries

McPolin Elementary School on Friday hosted its annual multicultural festival, which returned for the first time after a three-year hiatus resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Students created performances to honor their teachers’ home countries.
David Jackson/Park Record

Twirling girls with red and white flowers carefully placed into their high buns wore colorful dresses and wide smiles as they flounced across the blacktop at McPolin Elementary School last week. The girls’ dance partners, who donned crimson shirts tucked into ivory pants and displayed neckties of the same shade, performed their own movements with cowboy hats as Latin music rang out, and a crowd of Parkites cheered.

The dance on Friday was one of many performances created by Park City School District students as part of the annual multicultural festival at McPolin. The event returned this year after a three-year hiatus resulting from the coronavirus pandemic; much to the delight of students, parents and the community.

“Park City has a lot of different cultures and we need to represent all of them,” said Belsy Moscoso, the outreach coordinator at McPolin.

Moscoso, who is from Peru, was integral to the creation of the multicultural festival. She helped McPolin shift from an event centered around Cinco de Mayo, which is a Mexican celebration, to one that would honor the 21 cultures within the elementary school. This includes Latin countries as well as Asian and European nations.

This year, teachers leading kindergarten through fifth grade tasked their students with creating a dance that honored their home country, or a country of their choosing. There was a variety showcase as classes representing Venezuela, Spain, Mexico and Peru performed flamenco, mariachi, festejo and other folk dances. Meanwhile, line dancing and a recreation of Napoleon Dynamite’s freestyle dance to “Canned Heat” were among the performances from the North American groups.

The effort began in March for third-grade teacher Vicky Rudolph.

Though she’s originally from Nicaragua, Rudolph started by playing a variety of songs and music videos for her students to see what they were interested in. She knew many of the other grade levels were focused on traditional performances so she introduced modern pop music to her classes.

One group decided to represent Colombia while the other embodied broader Latin culture with Zumba. Rudolph then encouraged the third-graders to feel the music and create movements based on the dance styles. The students in each class differed in their response, with one cohort favoring a partner number and the second preferring limited dancing with an emphasis on drumming.

The youth were heavily involved in the creation of their performance, with each child feeling included in the process. Students also learned that it’s OK to try something new, even if they’re unfamiliar with it.

“They learned that they are capable of doing anything,” Rudolph said. “It is the culmination of our year. This shows the pride they took in learning, and now they’re presenting what they know.”

The multicultural festival also promotes equity and inclusion within the school – and the broader community. Moscoso said it’s an opportunity for students and their families to see diverse cultures as well as a chance for minority communities to showcase their heritage in a place they are proud to live.

Attendees enjoyed watching the performances and also chowed down on a large spread of various foods, including chips and salsa, bean and cheese dips, pasta salad and more.

“We do [these dances/traditions] in our universe, but never here,” she said. “It’s amazing to see the involvement.”

As the outreach coordinator, Moscoso helps bridge the gap between parents and the elementary school. Coworkers said Moscoso knows every child and every family, all of whom rely on her. McPolin staff kicked off the festival by honoring Moscoso for her tireless work.

Festival organizers were thrilled with this year’s turnout, which was around 150 people. McPolin administrators planned to release a survey seeking feedback to improve the event in the future.


Park City School District Board of Education hears solutions in wake of state audit

“Focus on the data outcomes, on the academic achievement outcomes, on the rankings that we have. The school board is happy with the direction of the district,” said Andrew Caplan, school board president. “We can always do a better job, especially with things that aren’t our core expertise like building and land management.”

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