–by Svetla Tomanova
As the evening sun began to set one February day, Kingston Elementary cafeteria was transformed into a lively and colorful celebration of culture. The school welcomed families from over 25 countries to its Global Night. Preparations for the night began several months in advance. The originators of the idea were the school’s PTA members, Debra McNamara, English as a Second Language teacher in Windsor Oaks and Kingston and Assistant Principal Sarah Allard. The team, along with Bella Lamb, a Global Studies student and former Kingston graduate, planned for this successful event.
“The event is more than just a gathering of people – it is about integrating our NATO and ESL population,” said Allard. “We have a large NATO community here in Kingston and we thought it is important to invite our families and allow them to share what makes them so unique.”
Families entered the school captured by the sounds of music from around the world, specifically curated by a DJ. She took requests from everyone who volunteered or planned the event so there was a variety of music played from different countries. The lively atmosphere did not stop there. With their “passports” at hand, attendees walked toward the cafeteria, where they were greeted by vibrant and colorful displays of cultural diversity.
From Albania, Bolivia, India, Germany and Hungary to Morocco, the Philippines, Spain, Israel and Brazil, each country was represented with a table showcasing its unique traditions, clothing and, of course, cuisine – tempting visitors to try a taste of something new.
Children and parents were dressed in T-shirts or national attires – proudly displaying their nationalities.
Volunteers brought items such as flags, books, carnival masks, informational posters and traditional décor to adorn their tables and entice visitors. Each station featured traditional dishes such as Spanish paella, Hungarian Bean Goulash, Turkish delights, Filipino egg rolls, Brazilian brigadeiro, French madeleine and at the American table – Virginia peanuts and cupcakes.
“We are glad everyone enjoyed the music, entertainment and food tastings,” said McNamara. “It was wonderful to see people from the two schools I teach – people of all ages and backgrounds mingled together, sharing stories and cultural experiences.”
The highlight of the evening was the dancers from Tallwood’s Global Studies Academy, who offered a smattering of traditional Filipino dances. They also provided some easy lessons for inquisitive children. Kingston attracted the Academy students not only out of curiosity but also because of the opportunity to learn about different cultures and traditions that exist right here in our city. Bella played a role in organizing the group’s participation at the event.
“We are proud of how the event turned out and we are looking forward to reuniting the community again next year so we can continue promoting cultural exchange and integration,” added Allard.
Undoubtedly, the event brought the school ESL community closer together, in the spirit of promoting a cross-cultural understanding and appreciation of different cultures.