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Sacred Heart students explore different cultures with Diversity Day

By Andie Foley
andie.foley@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The halls of Sacred Heart Catholic School teemed with excitement Friday as students waited for an important intercom announcement.

“Attention, all passengers,” said Dean of Students Erin Brinkley over the schoolwide speaker. “The time is now 9:30. Make sure you have your bags packed, your passport with you, and we will travel to your first destination.”

Friday’s destinations were just paces away in neighboring classrooms. From kindergarten to eighth grade, students in each grade level had transformed the room into a different country to celebrate Diversity Day.

Camile Denhard, director of school operations, said the project was an effort to celebrate and explore the rich and diverse backgrounds of Sacred Heart students.

“We want to show everyone’s an individual and we all have our history,” Denhard said. “We all have a history. You can see from our student population that we have a lot of different cultures, and we wanted people to be able to share that with others.”

The daylong program incorporated classroom curriculum and STREAM activities — explorations of science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and agriculture, and math.

Each class was split in two, with one half traveling and the second half presenting for the visitors. Two sessions gave every student the chance to explore and learn.

Kindergartners explored El Salvador, creating murals in the country’s national art form, La Palma. The bold, bright style was meant to bring out happiness and color in a time of war, said teacher Susan Harrison.

Stretching their engineering legs, the school’s youngest learners crafted Tazumal Ruins from Legos and crafted maracas from plastic spoons, Easter eggs and sprinkles.

First-graders transformed their classroom into Vietnam, creating festival dragons and performing a dance with conical leaf hats they crafted with paper and ribbon.

They weren’t the only ones performing traditional dances from their countries of choice: seventh- and eighth-graders let visiting students try dances from Russia and France. Third-graders added a touch of flash to a similar act with twirling, vibrant skirts.

In a sixth grade, the Grecian room, students put on a skit to highlight the differences between the feuding cities of Athens and Sparta.

Fifth-graders threw in math and technology with their lessons, measuring the distance in miles between Salisbury and their country of choice, Honduras, and using a 3D printer to craft a Mayan temple.

“We’re showing that there are different ways to learn,” said Denhard. “We’re not just going to learn with pencil and paper. We’re not just going to learn from a book. And we’re not going to just learn from a computer. We have to integrate everything together.”

Second-graders in the Indian classroom explored world religion with a presentation on Karni Mata, a Hindu temple known as the Temple of Rats.

Teachers were quick to tie each presentation to the current classroom studies. Exploring Germany, for example, fourth-graders connected lessons about settlers and early America.

“Every class has kind of made it their own,” said Brinkley. “We really chose the countries based on what their curriculum was, to kind of embed that within it.”

For Father John Eckert, pastor of Sacred Heart, the day offered students a chance to “get an appreciation for what’s going out there in the wider world.”

“To see them take on all these beautiful cultural expressions from all over and celebrate their rich history, it’s wonderful,” Eckert said.

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