Family roots teach world culture

2013-02-24T05:00:00Z Family roots teach world cultureCECILE LeBLANC Sun Staff Reporter Arizona Daily Sun
February 24, 2013 5:00 am  • 

Snow was falling outside Thursday, but inside Mountain School's gymnasium, the buzz of activity at Family Culture Night kept everyone warm.

Children wandered from table to table sampling food, asking questions and getting their "passports" stamped. This evening presented a chance to share and to learn about the different cultures present among the students at Mountain School.

Spanish teacher Michelle Galloway wanted families from all cultures to be able to share their background, so she started the Family Culture Night. While this was the third such event, it has skipped several years so that newer students could bring different countries.

This year, the newer countries were Norway, Denmark, Japan and Jamaica, along with 13 others. The one requirement, Galloway said, is the family must have a connection with the country. For example, one family was not German but had lived in Germany. They were excited to share what they had learned.

"Before the night, students focused on their roots," Galloway said. "They learned their ancestry in class."


Tables were set up with colorful displays of books, flags, maps and memorabilia from the country. Wooden clogs graced the table from the Netherlands.

Fourth-grader Cyanne Henson was dressed in a ceremonial Korean gown she got from her grandfather. She was having fun during the evening and was learning a lot at the different tables. She especially liked the Japan table.

"They were passing out chopsticks for people to use," she said.

Nesting dolls were popular on the Kazakhstan table. Linda Denham and her husband adopted two children from Kazakhstan, where Denham spent six weeks. She explained the country used to be part of the Soviet Union, so most people spoke Russian. She also showed photos of the space program from that country.

Students received pretend passports for the evening. As they went from table to table, they learned something new about the country and then received a stamp in their passport.

Students who visited all tables or dressed in international clothes were entered in a raffle.

Food was very popular at the tables. Tamara Lee shared her favorite food, roasted white corn. Lee's ancestry is White Mountain Apache and Navajo. She told students about the four sacred corns -- blue, white, red, yellow -- and how they are used in the union of marriage and the puberty ceremony.

At the Italy table, "Noni Joanna" taught students how to make pasta. Homemade pasta dried in strips on wooden racks.


Shortbread was served at the Scotland table, lefsa and gjetost cheese at the Norway table.

"Learning about other cultures was important, but food was my favorite," fourth-grader Cassie Cox said.

She especially liked the Greek dessert baklava.

The night ended with music. Marianne Sullivan played several tunes on her bagpipe.

She wore the tartan of the MacIntyre clan. Her daughter, Andra, also in Scottish dress, had red hair like her mom. Andra is in fourth grade at Mountain School.

"I learned where my grandma and grandpa lived in Scotland and that people in my family have been playing bagpipes for a long time," said Andra, adding that someday she might learn how to play them, too.

The drum group Sambutuque provided a rousing finish to the evening.

Cecile LeBlanc can be reached at 556-2261 or

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