KOKOMO, Ind. — If you only know about your own country, you miss out on what the rest of the world has to offer.
That is why Liesl Elkin, a sixth grader at the International School at Central Middle School, said it was important for her class to participate in the International Festival, hosted by Indiana University Kokomo.
"When you travel, for fun or for business when you are older, you have to know how to act in other countries," she said.
IU Kokomo faculty, staff, and students lent their expertise to the festival, leading the middle schoolers in building piñatas, creating origami birds, and Korean folk tales. About 160 students from the Kokomo-Center magnet school displayed their projects, representing 41 countries, in Alumni Hall.
Donna McLean, assistant professor of communication arts, said the campus is pleased to partner with the school to host the International Fair.
"We recognize the importance of students being exposed to international culture, geography, global issues, and global diversity," she said. "As technology increases our access and connection with people around the world, and global business challenges our ability to connect with markets worldwide, it is crucial for us to adopt a forward looking global orientation."
School of Education students graded the sixth graders' projects, which included posters, native dress, and artifacts, choosing the best for awards.
Those honored included:
- First place, Mackenzie Smith, Emma Watson, Rachel Wyrick, and Sabrina Miller, France;
- Second, Drew Coram, Max White, Cameron Robertson, and Clayton Brown, Mexico;
- Third, Lauryn Hicks, Abbi Hibler, Emily Evans, and Destiny Moore, Peru;
- Fourth, Daniel Herrera, Blake White, Grace Lefler, and Emily Whiteman, Chile;
- Tied for fifth, Luc Cesar, Luke Hubbard, and Jake Stevens, Haiti; and Tabby Cage, Kaylea Baker, and Elizabeth Dupire, Madagascar.
The festival also gave the middle school students a college campus experience. They ate lunch in the Kelley Student Center with members of the volleyball, basketball, and cross country teams, and could have their pictures taken with mascot Kingston Cougar in a photo booth operated by education students.
Elkin and her classmate Lauren Sukle chose Jamaica, because Sukle visited the island nation and wanted to learn more. Both dressed in Jamaican outfits and braided their hair with beads, to provide extra authenticity.
Elkin was surprised to discover that "while Jamaica is very different from the United States, it has the same kind of government we have, with people electing their representatives."
Sukle thought it was interesting that Jamaicans speak a patois language that combines elements of English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and African languages.
Lupe Acosta and Jor'Don Thompson chose Belgium for culinary reasons — the European country is known for its chocolates and waffles, Acosta said.
"They produce 22,000 tons of chocolate every year," he said. "That's a lot of chocolate."
Thompson thought it was interesting to learn that Belgium is so small, you can cross it in four hours on a train. He thinks the International Festival is important so students can learn to appreciate other cultures.
McLean wants to expand the festival in 2014, so community members can view the top presentations and bring their own international experiences to share with the students.
"We are happy to serve as a resource for the international school, sharing the unique perspectives of our global faculty and staff, and campus resources," she said.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.