U’s culture day brings traditions from around the world to young students

Elizabeth Giorgi

Usually kids have to leave school to experience the world. But Friday, the world entered the doors of Kaposia Elementary School.

World Cultures Day, an event hosted by the University’s Minnesota International Center, enlists University students and community members from various regions of the world to volunteer their time. The speakers give presentations at Minnesota schools throughout the year to teach children about world cultures.

Friday’s event brought 20 speakers from 14 regions of the world to Kaposia Elementary School in St. Paul.

Assistant Principal Jeff Roland said this was the second year World Cultures Day has come to the school.

“It’s just a real world experience,” he said.

Roland said students enjoy World Cultures Day at the school because it is something different from what they normally learn in the classroom.

Kaposia second-graders were jumping out of their chairs to ask doctoral student Mauvalyn Bowen questions about his native Jamaica.

Bowen said interacting with the students and being able to answer their questions allows the students to see the differences and similarities among the cultures.

Students asked questions about televisions and cell phones along with questions about what school is like for Jamaican children and what kind of pets people have.

In addition to students learning about different world cultures, the event gives presenters a learning experience as well, Bowen said.

“It exposes you to life in Minnesota and the United States,” she said.

Second-grader Anthony Schintz received a Jamaican dollar from Bowen for asking so many questions.

Schintz said his favorite part of the presentation was when Bowen played Jamaican music and taught the students how to dance to it.

“(Dancing) was just so fun,” he said.

Freelance interpreter Aksana Muratalieua was giving her first presentation to a classroom of first-graders Friday about her home country, Kyrgyzstan.

Muratalieua wore a celebratory dress from Kyrgyzstan and brought several props, including a hat, colorful blankets and a “temir komuz,” which is a commonly played instrument, representing the country’s culture.

After listening to a song played by Muratalieua, the students took their turns at the instrument and learned how to count to three in Kyrgyz.

Muratalieua also gave the students a lesson on a clapping game played by children in Kyrgyzstan.

Students are very open-minded when they are young, which makes them more open to trying new things, she said.

“At this young age, they can learn how diverse this world is,” Muratalieua said.

The best part of the day was when one student was able to point out Kyrgyzstan on the globe, she said.

First-grade teacher Kris Minar said Muratlieua was one of the best presenters her class has had.

The students stayed engaged and interested, which can be very difficult at this age, Minar said.

Minar said her class is studying families from different regions of the world, so World Cultures Day was timed perfectly for their studies.

“(The students) will talk about this for the rest of the year,” she said.