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‘Around the World’ celebration at Signal Hill

Students learn about other countries during seventh annual 'Around the World' event at Signal Hill Elementary School

Students at Signal Hill Elementary School celebrate the Burkina Faso Dancing Masks Festival during the schools ‘Around the World’ celebration during June.

Signal Hill Elementary School continued its annual end of year “Around the World” event earlier this month, celebrating diversity by teaching students about different festivals and cultural events.

Each year, teachers Jenna Cocci and Danielle Riggs choose a different aspect of the world to center activities around. Having grown to be the major, school-wide initiative that it is today, the entire school works together to learn about other countries while participating in food tastings, informative assemblies, parades and more in an effort to get all students interested in the world.

Fifth-graders often serve as the “leaders” for younger students to learn from in the importance of the event as well as how it all comes together.

“We’re focusing on different festivals that are celebrated throughout the world this year,” said Riggs. “Our tour guides are representing Philadelphia by being dressed up like the Mummers, and we use our fifth-graders to help develop presentations on different holidays and festivals.”

The five celebrations that Signal Hill students learned and taught to parents and friends who attended the three-day event at the school were the Diwali, the running of the bulls, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Carnival in Venice and the Burkina Faso Dancing Mask Festival.

Students decorate hallways throughout the school and prepare skits to teach passing parents about each celebration, such as why its celebrated and how its people do so.

“Students work on the artwork to decorate the halls, and then the weekend before this event teachers stay after school to help put up the pieces,” said Cocci. “It’s the seventh year we’ve done this, and in the beginning we only started with landmarks and the children would make a display. But it’s evolved to grow into the length of the school hallways as more teachers have gotten involved.”

Seven years ago, the two teachers had hoped for the possibility of a multi-cultural event to help expand the worldview of students at Kresson Elementary School. Since its inception, the teachers, with help from others, have been able to bring into the school dozens of other countries, teaching about food, culture, climate, landmarks, sports and more.

“It truly is a team effort of [Jenna] Cocci and [Danielle] Riggs,” said Principal Sharon Stallings. “It was kind of their dream, when they first asked to do something like this. A lot of our students visit places that the event has covered over the years.”

During the event, students in the school receive a “passport” and visit five countries while participating in a food tasting, supported by parents.

Theme and idea generation for the next year’s theme has already begun, as the two teachers begin to theorize what next year’s “Around the World” event could include. Often, the two will discuss multiple ideas during the summer before selecting final topics to be taught over the course of the year before hosting the actual event in June. As it turns out, students are ready to help pitch in as well.

“The kids love this so much that I had a student come up to me already for an idea for next year, she wants to do a sport theme because of the Olympics,” said Cocci. “We can’t wait to see what ideas would be able transform these halls.”

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