International Week celebrates culture

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On Monday morning, students at East Elementary had their passports checked and boarded a flight bound for Brazil. And, they didn't have to leave the East gymnasium to do it.

As part of the school's International Week, kindergarten through fourth-grade classes took part in Monday's mock flight simulation.

It began with a slide show of the world's fifth-largest country and ended with students being greeted by East secretary Christina McKenzie, who was dressed in a fruit-laden headdress as famed samba singer Carmen Miranda.

"We do a different country for International Week every year," McKenzie said. "Last year, we did England; Greece the year before for the Olympics. We've done China, Mexico. This year, for Brazil, the kids will be making masks for carnival, and each grade level decorates a hallway -- we'll have the rainforest in the lobby, a hall decorated with the Brazilian 'gaucho' cowboy theme, one about gem mining, one for the Amazon River."

In addition to decorating the halls, each grade level will be responsible for presenting a display and fact sheet about their assigned region.

Carolyn Casinger, who serves on the teacher committee that selects the country and classroom activities, said Brazil is the first South American country to be studied.

The week ended mid-morning Friday with an all-school outdoor carnival parade and authentic Brazilian luncheon.

Music teacher Chad Johnson is getting his students prepared for the parade by practicing Brazilian folk culture songs featuring some tongue-twisting, Portuguese lyrics.

"It's fun, the kids work on the songs throughout the week and really enjoy it," Johnson said.

The immersion into a different culture extends outside of the classroom.

Teacher Brett Sperl said he'll be teaching his physical education students a group step dance from the Afro-Brazilian region of Bahia in addition to playing soccer.

"It's a different focus for the week, an attempt at multi-cultural study with a lot of activities that allows the kids to do something different. ... I love having the school decorated. It's a fun, festive atmosphere," Casinger said.

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