KOKOMO, Ind. — Kokomo middle school students learn to live as citizens of the world, at the annual International Festival.
The festival, a partnership between Indiana University Kokomo and Kokomo School Corporation, gave nearly 200 sixth graders from Central Middle International School a chance to display their projects in Alumni Hall, representing more than 40 countries.
In the Main Building, IU Kokomo faculty and students presented enrichment sessions with international flair, including South Korean folk tales, creating Chinese lanterns, breaking a piñata and learning Spanish language, and discussing opportunities for international travel.
Sixth-grader Athena Harding, dressed in a traditional Moroccan outfit, said learning about other cultures makes people better, more considerate world travelers.
“I think when you visit another country, the people appreciate if you’ve made an effort to learn their customs, and some of their language,” she said.
She focused her studies on Morocco, because it is one of her guardian’s home country. She researched on the internet, while he checked the facts she found for accuracy. The dress she wore was a gift from his family to his wife, Rita Rasmouni.
Her display included dozens of photographs taken in Morocco, traditional clothing, and items used in the homes.
Trey Shelby and Ty Pogue created a presentation about the Czech Republic, choosing that country because Pogue’s grandparents hosted an exchange student from there last year.
He was impressed by the attention to architectural detail in the buildings.
“I like how all the big buildings have the spires on the top,” he said.
Cole Scheiman was one of the adventurous students who sampled international foods, prepared by the Cougar Country Café by Rozzi’s Catering. He tried posole from Mexico, dorawat and ingera from Ethiopia, pad Thai from Thailand, chorizo and potato frittata from Argentina, and crepes from France.
This is the fifth year IU Kokomo has partnered with Central International Middle School to host the festival.
Teacher Mary Page said in addition to meeting IU Kokomo’s international faculty, students become comfortable being on a college campus by attending the event.
They were especially interested in the Chinese culture session, she said, because the school recently hosted students from a school in China. Teachers from Central also visited China this year, and a group from IU Kokomo will visit that country in March.
The sixth graders were eager to talk with the IU Kokomo students who have traveled overseas, she said.
“They’re starting to consider their own overseas travel opportunities, and will learn what that is like from people who have done it,” she said. “They will see that it is possible, and what these college students gained from the experience.”
Donna McLean, associate professor of communication arts, said the festival exposes students to international culture, and opportunities to travel.
“Technology is making our world smaller, and our students must be aware of diversity, global issues, world culture, and geography, to prepare them to be successful citizens in the future.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.