Sandrock Elementary School students look to Brazil for International Week |

Sandrock Elementary School students look to Brazil for International Week

Pupils at Sandrock Elementary School contemplate aspects of Brazilian nature, culture

Michael Neary
Second-grade teacher Allison LeWarne talks with students this past week about artwork featuring Brazil at Sandrock Elementary School. The school community celebrates its version of "International Week" every year.
Michael Neary

— As they celebrated their version of International Week, students at Sandrock Elementary School thought about Brazil this past week — pondering topics from the Amazon River to the Olympics.

“It’s exposing the students to another culture,” said Principal Kamisha Siminoe, noting that International Week is an annual event at the school.

Siminoe said it was also important to do something that involves the entire school.

“In my mind, and I think in the mind of a lot of teachers, that helps with our own school culture,” she said.

Part of the learning came from a presentation delivered by school parents Josh and Heidi Dickhaut, who’d traveled to Brazil.

On Friday, fifth-grader Trinity Farquharson recalled making masks and flags throughout the week, as well studying some facts about the country.

“You learn about the capital,” said Trinity. “It’s Brasília — spelled with an ‘s,’ not a ‘z.’”

Trinity imagined the sorts of things she’d like to do if she were suddenly transported to Brazil. She could sail out to an animal sanctuary, she said, and hold an eel, a seahorse or some other sort of creature.

She’d also studied some ways that people have made a living in Brazil.

“We learned about this one 7-year-old who would climb up trees and chop off coconuts for his family,” Trinity said. “He would sell them, and all that money would go to his family.”

Trinity said, too, that she’d learned about professions that weren’t all that different from what people do in this area, including teaching, mining and tourism.

As third-grader Zachary Hedam contemplated the week, he listed — with no prompting — the Brazilian currency (real), the capital (Brasília) and the official language (Portuguese). He also looked forward to an activity that was planned for Friday afternoon in honor of the Olympics, scheduled to take place in Brazil in a few months.

“We’re doing the Olympics in the gym,” he said. “We play scooter-relay, and then we play soccer and do a triathlon.”

Allison LeWarne, a second-grade teacher in the school, said she’s talked with her students about the multiple cultures in Brazil — sampling music along the way — and she also mentioned reading about cities such as Rio Grande and Brasília.

LeWarne said her students frequently study other cultures even during ordinary school weeks.

“In second grade we talk a lot about customs that come from different cultures,” LeWarne said. “So we have a lot with maps and where places are.”

Sometimes, she said, they’ll explore the roots of practices that have developed in this community, such as ranchers’ customs.

“They’re very curious,” she said of the students. “They really like to see how the traditions come about. It gives them an understanding that there’s a reason why things happen.”

For third-grader Alyssa LeWarne, Allison LeWarne’s daughter, studying another country can be like having a passport.

“You can feel like you’re in the other place,” Alyssa said.

Contact Michael Neary at 970-875-1794 or or follow him on Twitter @CDP_Education.