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South Elementary Celebrates Cultural Diversity Among Students and Families

At South Elementary, fostering a sense of diversity and inclusion is a core value that extends beyond the classroom walls. Building on the 'Holidays Around the World' social studies curriculum, South teachers invited students and their families to participate in interactive lessons exploring diverse cultural traditions. Through each presentation, students were introduced to the customs and traditions observed in Ukraine, Mexico, and the Philippines during the holiday season, with the largest representation being Ukrainian due to the high number of Ukrainian students. 

From singing songs for the class, wearing traditional costumes, and sharing common dishes served on the holidays, student presenters enjoyed introducing their traditions to their school. “When students and families see that every culture is a valued piece of the South puzzle, we can all come together as learners,” said Megan Gidcumb, ELL teacher and South Equity Committee Rep.

Students took great interest in learning about the cultures and traditions of their classmates. “We have read about different celebrations around the world, but to hear firsthand from their peers was such an impactful experience,” exclaims Sara Genovese, 4th grade teacher. 

Students particularly enjoyed a lesson that focused on the Ukrainian roots of the song "Carol of the Bells" and appreciated the traditional Ukrainian costumes. “It was a great experience. Our intention was to tell students and staff about the different ways holidays are celebrated in our country (Ukraine), emphasizing both the similarities and differences in our traditions,” said two of the parent presenters, Mariia Zhukevych and Oksana Zakamarok. 

South ELL teacher Halina Zayats was instrumental in organizing the presentations. “Students worked really hard and were really excited about the idea of sharing their traditions,” said Zayats. “They liked to see the pierogi and national costumes,” said student presenter Yulia.

“We plan on continuing ‘Holidays Around the World’ next year and are always brainstorming new ways to involve parents, students, and teachers to make it as collaborative and enriching as possible,” said Zayats.

Principal Rachael Alt states, “We want all our students and families to feel welcome and valued, creating our strong South community.”