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International Festival Showcases Pleasantdale’s Global Community

Students, parents share cultures through song and food

’s global community made itself known when their fifth grade classes came together in celebration of their many cultures through music, dance and the sharing of international culinary delights.

The annual Fifth Grade International Festival is a Pleasantdale tradition that goes back about 15 years.

During the event, roughly 48 students entered displaying flags of their own creation representing more than 25 different cultural backgrounds. Then musical and dance numbers were performed for an audience of parents followed by an international feast.

Students preformed a variety of different ethnic as well as seasonal selections including the traditional Irish folk song "Pat Works on the Railway," Jose Feliciano’s "Feliz Navidad" as well as a selection of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Americana songs.

The signature performance of the event was a dance to Shakira's "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)." Rita Davidson, the school’s music teacher, directed the musical portion of the event. "The dancers volunteered to preform it and helped with the choreography," she said. The song, which was chosen as the official song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, combined elements which students narrators said inspire children to work and play together.

The overall themes of living in a multicultural community were reinforced in the classrooms by the teachers. Doug Norrie, Maria Larezza and Amy Pacifico have been preparing their students for the past few weeks for the event.

"We talk about how lucky we are to live in such a diverse town and we celebrate our diversity," Norrie told Patch.

Norrie also pointed out the importance of involving the family as much as possible. Part of the project had students making posters of their countries in addition to the flags. The students' final projects will be displayed in the school's main hallways.

"The parents help out at home with the students preparing the posters. They also prepared and donated all the wonderful food for the feast," Norrie said.

Davidson describes the event as an "integration of music and the social studies curriculum." She said the performance is a "beautiful example of how children learn and share each other's cultures."

West Orange resident, Chris Morgan, said his son participated in the festival. "I thought it was a wonderful celebration interestingly done in a musical and culinary way," he said. "The kids did a great job."

Pleasantdale Principal Joanne Pollara spoke at the conclusion of the event using an analogy of comparing the memories we make to receiving a gift of a rose. Speaking to the parents and students she told them she hopes they "come away with a rose of a wonderful wonderful memory."

This Friday the fifth graders will repeat their performance for the entire school for a holiday assembly. The program was also filmed by West Orange high school students under the direction of the districts media technician, Nick Marmo, for West Orange TV 36 /45 to air this week.

amy wall December 19, 2011 at 12:51 PM
What a wondererful idea and wonderful way to celebrate diversity - next year the parents should do some dancing as well! Might be nice to select a few children to read a brief story about a holiday tradition specific to heritage.

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