As part of the Stevens Global Leadership Program, Upper School students in grades 6-12 at The Priory traveled around the world – passports in hand – without ever leaving campus on October 19. This year marked the fifth time students participated in our World Culture and Language Fair. The event, organized by World Language teacher Murielle Sipola, is a way to create access to cultures students may not otherwise experience. During the event, many students and faculty were seen dressed in their culture's attire or from places they have visited.
The morning kicked off with a welcome assembly and then students were free to attend sessions of their choosing. Each class was 15 minutes long and as diverse as the countries themselves.
"We invited many cultures that the kids are not usually exposed to and may not even know about," Sipola said. "This event is important for students who are interested in the Stevens Global Leadership track and in being active participants to make the world a better place."
More than 30 countries were represented in the various classrooms with presentations, dance lessons, language lessons and hands-on learning activities. The countries the students could choose to learn more about included Montenegro, Burma, Switzerland, Russia, Vietnam, Italy, Georgia, Germany, Indonesia, Micronesia, Okinawa, Korea and Senegal.
"This is a great opportunity for students to connect with people from outside organizations and to keep the conversation going," Sipola said. "I reached out to our wonderful community, including the University of Hawaiʻi, Hawai'i Pacific University, consulates and a variety of people and organizations and also our students. We have the international hospitality center that invites students to be here on campus and they are also sharing their culture with students."
In Okinawa, Priory in the City Director Marcie Herring, taught students to count in Okinawan and introduced her mother to the class, who shared a sweet treat of jasmine tea and a pastry with the girls. Over in Georgia, international exchange student Mariam Zenaishvilii, shared a traditional Georgian dance with visitors. In Russia, members of the University of Hawai'i Russian department taught students how to play wooden spoons, called lozhki. In Italy, students learned more about the refugee crisis in Sicily – as well as some Italian language – from Daniela Minerbi, Ph.D.
The event also featured Tina Yap, from The Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii, playing the bagpipe during session transitions. A presentation by UH Professor Patricio Abinales, Ph.D., was a fragrant session that covered a topic most people enjoy – food. Abinales spoke about the role of spices in Asian cuisine and shared many of them with students. There were international food samplings in many of the other rooms, as well.
"We here at The Priory are very interested in global leadership," said Upper School Principal Nichole Field. "We have a global leadership distinction that students can earn as a special honor at graduation. Building knowledge and compassion toward other cultures is important to our school and to our students. We emphasize compassion and we know that when students learn about other people's cultures and traditions, they increase their compassion toward people around the world When we do that, we increase pathways for peace around the world."
The students reflected on their experiences by answering questions in their passports. The questions – such as "how does your background and experiences influence your
understanding of the diverse cultures that you observed today?" – challenged students to think critically about new learning and tie it into their past experiences.
"I've visited Finland, Moldova and I learned Yap and I'm going to head over to the Filipino Glee Club singing," said Natalie Wong, a senior at The Priory, in between sessions. "My favorite thing so far was learning about Finland. The teacher (Katja Silveriã) told us that it is dark all day half of the year and light the other half."
The World Culture and Language Fair was an exciting trip around the globe in less than four hours and one of many examples of the way in which St. Andrew's School carries out Queen Emma's vision for global leadership and compassionate stewardship.