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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Annual World Night gives Butler Elementary students firsthand knowledge of diverse cultures

Aug 29, 2019 09:12AM ● By Julie Slama

Butler Elementary girls admire the Czech wedding dolls displayed at the school’s annual World Night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

On Butler Elementary’s website, it reads: “Every child in this school is someone’s whole world.”

Which means on their annual World Night, everyone is welcome to celebrate their culture — and the community responds.

Hundreds came to the May event, which featured student dances and artwork from around the world, but also a chance to learn a little more about several different countries. Many patrons say it’s one of the first things they mark on their calendars along with the first and last days of school.

“It’s our third year coming and we love it,” said Brooke Morrison accompanied first-grader Theo and third-grader Eloise. “It’s so amazing. The kids are gaining a broader world view. It’s one of the best things.”

In each grade-level hallway, volunteers come to eagerly share about their culture with the school children and their families.

Jessica Green volunteered to share about the Czech Republic, the heritage of her neighbor. She explained to young girls about clothing on a doll that was displayed.

“It’s called a wedding doll,” she said. “The tradition is that the grandmother sews the traditional costume for the doll and passes it to her granddaughter for her marriage. It’s a rich tradition.”

She also talked about other Czech traditions and holidays such as kraslice, or Easter eggs that families decorate with geometrical and floral designs using the batik method. At Easter, many Czechs also celebrate with other traditions, such as using noisemakers or wooden ratchets. Green allowed students, including first-grader Abigail James, to wave and spin them, producing a loud clatter.

“It’s a really good opportunity to teach our students about another part of the world,” Green said. “Utah is a beautiful, lovely place, but there are parts of the world that maybe they’ve never heard of and it’s exciting to teach them about those. We love our culture, but this is an opportunity for them to learn about another.”

Abigail’s mother, Jessica, said she’s glad her daughter has this opportunity.

“It’s a great night out for the family to learn about world culture, but also to have the hands-approach of learning and expanding their minds,” she said.

In other hallways, students may have learned about Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, Mexico and other parts of the world. 

“The kids are involved in learning specifically about their country’s culture and producing art representing it,” special education teacher Renee King said. “Then, they get to go around and learn about other places and watch their classmates dance so they have an even broader view and are more accepting of others.”

King said that since Butler Elementary is a dual immersion French school, it’s important to celebrate diversity.

“They’re learning to be more aware, more tolerant and more understanding. They’re able to adapt to more situations and have more opportunities,” she said. “Plus, it’s a great night where families come, even older students return. It’s a community night.”

Kindergarten teacher Leslie Rodgriguez agrees.

“Just learning diversity and learning about other people and their cultures is so important,” she said. “It expands our knowledge. We started learning about dances two months ago and learned about pandas in Asia.”

Kindergartener Bash Smith told his mother that pandas eat bamboo and said they watched pandas on the pandacam at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

“He’s connecting what he learns outside the classroom, across the country and the world,” his mother, Meggan, said. “When we came today, we didn’t realize what a big thing this is. We’ve watched performances of different cultures, sampled food from around the world, and are planning to try activities. It’s a good introduction to learning about cultures.”