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South Jordan Journal

Students learn about different cultures through upcoming events

Oct 22, 2018 01:26PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Vivo Mexico Folkloric Ballet will present a Mexico Independence Day dance assembly to Elk Meadows Elementary students. (Aaron Ichimura/ Elk Meadows Elementary)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

Students at several South Jordan schools will have the opportunity to learn more about other cultures this November.

Early Light Academy, Elk Meadows Elementary and South Jordan Elementary all are planning events to help students learn more other countries and their customs.

“We want to give students an authentic experience with our assembly,” Elk Meadows Principal Aaron Ichimura said. 

Elk Meadows’ Mexico Independence Day dance assembly will be on Friday, Nov. 2, a bit belated from the country’s Sept. 16 date, but they have an opportunity to host Vivo Mexico Folkloric Ballet, a group of about 20 dancers who perform for the students and also invite them to participate.

“Last year, they wore these beautiful authentic costumes and discussed with them about the Mexican culture and gave them background about the country and costumes,” he said, adding that the group performs at the school for free. “Last year, we had a sixth-grader dance with them, and it was fun to see her perform. It was very impressive and educational.”

About two weeks later, South Jordan Elementary will host its family folk dance night at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 19, where families are invited to come participate in dances for all ages.

“We want to encourage families to play together in a different way,” said Nancy Hopkin, South Jordan Elementary Beverly Taylor-Sorenson music specialist. “Often, families will watch a movie or go bowling, or if they’re creative, go play laser tag together. This is something we can do at the same pace and can also do at home. It’s something one generation passed down to another.”

Hopkin, who is in her first year at South Jordan Elementary, wants to make this an annual event, where families participate, not parents watch their children or take video of them performing.

“We’d like this to be an activity with their kids, sharing with them in a unique experience,” she said. “This is a chance to link generations and cultures together.”

This year’s focus will be folk dances from around the world but the dances will be easy enough that everyone should be able to learn them within minutes. Hopkins also plans to share a little bit of the dances’ history with them with her introduction.

“We want to introduce them to these dances,” she said. “If the whole world were brought together to sing and dance, we’d have a much better understanding. There’s a power in music. We’re hoping to build generations and community together.”

Hopkins also will be teaching students throughout the year authentic music that ties into each grade level’s curriculum. For example, second-graders learn about traditions and customs, so she plans to teach them American songs and symbols that tie into the country’s history. Fourth-graders learn about Utah history, so she will teach pioneer folk songs and Native American dances, singing and games. Fifth-graders learn more in depth about America, so they’ll learn folk songs about the country, such as “Swanee River” and “The Erie Canal Song” or spirituals.

“We want them to internalize what they’re learning and make it a little deeper,” she said. “We want them to learn who they are, where they come from and how they can fit in and have fun learning about it through music.”

At Early Light Academy, the students and community are welcome to learn about Mexico at the school’s 10th annual cultural night. It will be held at 5 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 29 at the school, 11709 Vadania Drive, South Jordan. 

At the night, classes will create items from the culture from the Mexican flag to poinsettias, said Shannon Berry, curriculum director and district arts coordinator. 

Berry said that students will tie their learning into their creativity, such as third-graders creating something to tie into the Aztecs, and sixth-graders into the Mayan culture. She said the night will include singing and dancing as well as art work displays, such as fifth-graders’ pottery. 

There will be crafts for the community to make, such as masks, God’s eyes, maracas or ponchos. In addition, she is coordinating tamales for purchase and hopes to bring in a mariachi band. Students also can participate in playing soccer and taking a turn hitting a piñata.

In the past, cultural nights have focused on European countries, such as Germany, Italy, Ireland and France, as well as life in Australia and the Polynesian Islands.

“We are a history-base school, so we want our students to open their eyes to different cultures and ways of life so they are well-rounded,” she said. “This is a fun night to learn, showcase and celebrate different cultures.”