Halethorpe Elementary students, teachers experience cultural immersion


What if you shrunk the world to the size of an elementary school?

That’s exactly what Halethorpe Elementary School did during its Multicultural Week last month. Beginning with the morning announcements on Monday, May 27, the week kicked off with special appearances by several of the school’s multicultural students. While on the air, the students introduced their classmates and teachers to their diverse backgrounds by sharing personal anecdotes and family stories.

The cultural exchange did not end there, though. As students moved from class to class throughout the week, they passed through the school’s “Hall of Nations.” Stretching down the school’s main corridor, the hall featured photographs and representations of the art, clothing, food and sports from countries across the globe. With each country reflecting the heritage of at least one Halethorpe Elementary student, homages to many of the world’s 196 countries appeared on the hallway walls.

“Our goal was to show students that, not only are there differences among cultures but, often, [there are] similarities, as well,” says Janet Chao, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher and Multicultural Week sponsor.

At the end of the week, the five-day cultural celebration ended on a high note with the school-wide Multicultural Assembly. The assembly opened with the Parade of Flags, in which a procession of prekindergarten students carried the flags of the countries included in the “Hall of Nations.” Following the prekindergarteners’ march around the auditorium, the kindergarteners took to the stage for the first presentation. In the days leading up to the assembly, each grade level received a continent, and each class selected a country within its assigned continent to research. Then, through dances, narratives, posters, skits and songs, the students shared the findings of their research. Teachers, too, joined in on the presentations by donning each country’s traditional clothing.


“Often, the extent of a student’s knowledge about the world at [elementary-school] age is limited to pointing to a place on a map,” says Chao. “We wanted that map to come alive for students and the celebration to be used as background knowledge for future learning and friendships.”

The forces behind Multicultural Week are the members of Halethorpe Elementary’s Multicultural Committee. Representing the school’s 124 ESOL students, the committee strives to raise awareness and develop understanding of diversity.

Although the next Multicultural Week is still another year away, Halethorpe Elementary already is looking forward to growing this cultural celebration larger – but not larger than the school building, of course!


Story idea and photos by Janet Chao and Cheryl Fearer, teachers, Halethorpe Elementary School. Story by Blake Lubinski, intern, Department of Communications and Community Outreach.
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