North Whidbey Middle School students celebrate cultural differences, similarities

Laurel Warden presents her Cultural Fair project about the history of Saint Patrick’s Day to Karleigh Lamar Wednesday. - Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times
Laurel Warden presents her Cultural Fair project about the history of Saint Patrick’s Day to Karleigh Lamar Wednesday.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson/Whidbey News-Times

North Whidbey Middle School eighth-grade students shared pieces of their family and personal history with each other and with the community Feb. 29 as they presented their Cultural Fair projects.

Months of research and hard work went into poster presentations and research papers on topics ranging from Philippine or Italian family history to the histories of the guitar, fashion and science fiction. Students shared food relating to their topics, dressed up in cultural garb and brought props like musical instruments.

“The turnout is great. There’s some really hard work and variety: family, to their interests of rock ‘n roll, music, some good food,” said North Whidbey Middle School assistant principal Ray Cone. “So far, it’s been really neat to see what the kids put together.”

“I’m really thrilled with how it’s turned out tonight. There’s so many families and parents here and siblings with the eighth-graders,” said Erika Jenkins, language arts teacher.

The school used to have a similar project 10 years ago and teachers decided to bring a cultural project back this year. Three language arts teachers, Kelly Spence, Lindsay Brockett and Jenkins received a grant through the Oak Harbor Education Foundation to have students research an aspect of their family culture, conduct an interview with at least one family member, write a research paper and create a visual display that highlights their research, Jenkins said.

“We felt there was a real need to celebrate diversity at the school,” Jenkins said.

“We hope this will become tradition and spread to both middle schools,” Cone said.

This goes along with the school’s Big Elephant anti-bullying campaign because learning about each other’s cultures and personal histories helps students get to know each other and find their similarities as well as honor their differences, Cone said.

“I think it’s nice to have that sense of community by celebrating diversity at our school,” Jenkins said.

For her project, Laurel Warden linked the history of Saint Patrick’s Day with her Irish family history.

Warden researched the food, music, history of the Irish flag, parades, festivals and more and even dressed up in green and brought cupcakes.

“It was really interesting to find out the things that were done and the festivals and music,” Warden said. The longest Saint Patrick’s Day parade, which is in New York City, interested her, as well as the dyeing of the Chicago River for Saint Patrick’s Day.

While she knew some of the history beforehand because her family is “extremely Irish,” Warden said she did learn a lot.

“This project definitely helped me look into my culture and what it’s about,” Warden said.

Anna Belle Whitefoot chose to research the Yakama Nation because she is half Yakama.

“My grandma really involves me in things about it and teaches me a lot,” Whitefoot said, pointing out a photo of her grandma alongside Yakama-made beadwork and traditional canned Yakama foods like salmon, huckleberries and chokecherries.

“The most interesting part was finding out new things and I also liked doing the interview with my grandmother,” Whitefoot said.

Mily Larsen stepped away from cultural heritage to the history of a topic dear to her heart: cookies.

“I chose this because cookies have made my family a better family,” Larsen said, adding that for many generations, her family has enjoyed baking cookies together and even holds cookie baking competitions.

Larsen researched some of her favorite types of cookies and discovered interesting tidbits about their ingredients and origination. Then she linked cookies to military families and discovered that hundreds of types of cookies can be shipped overseas to soldiers.

The students also created a quilt that will travel throughout the community. Each student made one square depicting their interest or culture in the school colors of black, red and white. Debra at Quilters Workshop put the quilt together.

“We want the community to see how diverse our school is,” Jenkins said.

View the quilt at its first stop, Whidbey Coffee, soon.


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