Nearly 170 sixth graders from the International School at Central Middle School, Kokomo, set up displays representing 41 countries, for the annual International Festival. Faculty, staff, and students provided enrichment experiences for the students, including a piñata building workshop.
The festival exposes students to international culture, which is important as technology makes the world smaller, said Donna McLean, assistant professor of communication arts.
"We are pleased to partner with the Kokomo Schools to offer the International Festival," she said. "It is crucial to make students aware of global issues, diversity, geography, and culture, to prepare them to live and work as citizens of the world."
Andralise Blackshear watched the Winter Olympics with more interest than usual this year, as she and her group completed their project on host country Russia.
"Now that I've learned about Russia, I think it would be an interesting place to visit," she said. "I've been enjoying learning more about it on TV during the Olympics."
Her team's exhibit included several collections of matroyska dolls, also known as nesting dolls, in their exhibit featuring Russia. Her teammate David Anderson-Penn especially liked a set representing Russian leaders, from Lenin to Gorbachev.
Alex Bolinger's team chose Tanzania as their country, because his father went there to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. They had several souvenirs brought back from that trip, including several wooden giraffes.
He was amazed to find out that nearly half the population of Tanzania, which is in southeastern Africa, is 15 years or younger.
Ivory Bess, one of his teammates, said it is important to learn other cultures, so you are prepared to travel and interact with people from around the world. She was surprised to learn that in Tanzania, she should never give a thumbs up, because rather than being a sign of approval, it is considered to be an obscene gesture.
"You have to know and understand the culture, so you know how to behave appropriately and get along with people," she said.
She was saddened to read about people rolling poisoned pumpkins into the roads to kill Tanzania's elephants, to take their tusks to sell for the ivory.
During lunch, an international buffet provided by the Cougar Country Café by Rozzi's Catering, IU Kokomo students answered questions about campus life and international study opportunities.
Teacher Mary Page was pleased the students tried and enjoyed international cuisine; including egg drop soup, Rolla vacca, Cuban picadilla with rice, and Moroccan rice pudding.
This is the fifth year IU Kokomo and Central Middle School have partnered to host the event, and every year gets better, she said.
"The cooperation between our schools is great," she said. "Our kids are excited to learn about their countries, and they work hard to create an excellent display to bring to campus. They come here and meet the college students, and learn about all the opportunities available to them, including international travel. This is something we look forward to every year."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.