Our school recently held an International Night, to culminate a week of fun activities: classes did lots of art projects, such as making Multicultural Dolls and Diversity Quilts, every student made a flag of their heritage, they sang tons of songs from different genres around the world in music class, we shared bread from around the world on our International Bread Day, and held a colorful parade of traditional clothes through the hallways.
During International Night, I called for parents to coordinate “Country Tables” that were to be set up in the cafeteria during our spring Open House. I began months before, looking for volunteers to be the leaders of a particular country: we have large populations of families from China, India, Pakistan, the Middle East, and Indonesia, and I needed at least one person to be “in charge” of each team of volunteers.
I got approval from the administration to set up about an hour earlier than the event, and we arranged with the maintenance team to have tables set up in a circle around the outside of the cafeteria. The parent helpers were told to bring in objects that could be handled by kids, without breaking (nothing fragile!!!!). I suggested: maps, flags, clothing, pictures, jewelry, toys, dolls, games, posters, textiles, wooden objects…
Since this was my first time organizing an event like this, I didn’t give a lot of recommendations except that the presentations be kid-friendly and as interactive as possible. I was blown away by how awesome this turned out! I forgot to ask permission from some of the tables to post their pictures, so I’m only posting pictures with me and my kids, and the few people I did get permission from. Next time I’ll be more organized in that aspect!:)
I was in charge of the Ethiopia table (see here for information and resource about Ethiopia!), and so I made a large trifold poster with my kids (and actually my mom helped:). Kids visiting my booth got to try out a shepherd’s chair, and hear the story of coffee (and the shepherd’s who supposedly discovered the bean when their goats stayed awake all night after snacking on it!). I also shared a table with the country of Chad (Africa) and they were giving out samples of goat milk- which was SO popular with the kids.
The Mexico table also was handing out samples- of delicious, out-of-this-world, Mexican candy! Obviously this was extremely popular (who doesn’t love dulce de leche and coconut candies?). Luz (seen left with her son) also had a couple of videos playing that showcased the the wonders of Mexico: ruins, beaches, modern Mexico City, folkloric dancing, and patriotic music. It’s important when planning the event to be aware of where you outlets are, and make sure the people who need them will have nearby access so there’s not cords running across the floor.
The China table was huge and had tons of decorations: dragons, fans, terra cotta warrior figurines, ceramics, toys, maps, flags, etc. Kids lined up and crowded around to find their birthdays on the animal zodiac wheel, and then read about the personality traits associated with their birth years. I literally heard kids shouting across the cafeteria and smiling “Mommy, you’re a rat! And you’re loving!” At first I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about: “I’m a monkey!! haha, I like to be the center of attention!” It was so fun to see how involved the kids were.
The Middle Eastern table was a cooperation between families from Jordan, Palestine, and United Arab Emirates, and it was fabulous! The highlight in my opinion (besides the delicious hummus and pita!!!) was the huge basket of clothes from the region that kids and adults could try on. I took so many pictures of students playing “dress-up-” they really enjoyed the tactile experience, and then were able to flip through the gorgeous books and look at photos of families who live in the region, the landscapes, big cities, and unique architecture.
My other favorite features:
- the India table was a cooperation between many families, who all donated bangles to give out to the girls. The way the displayed their purses, jewelry, and gorgeous clothing reminded me of an elegant store- and both of my daughters were attracted by the all of the gold bling.
- a family who had lived abroad in Chile for several years had an enormous table full of souvenirs, clay figures, textiles, clothes, purses, weavings, etc. Don’t forget to ask parents who have lived abroad to help contribute- you don’t have to be originally from another country to be able to present and celebrate it.
- the mom who organized Taiwan had a large collection of traditional toys that the kids were allowed to play with- there was always a crowd waiting to take turns with them.
- our Girl Scouts had just participated in a Festival of Nations, and offered to display their project: Zimbabwe. They not only had a detailed Zimbabwe poster, along with a video on life in Zimbabwe and a craft for kids to bead a bracelet with the colors of Zimbabwe’s flag.