By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — When Anna Moritz was researching her Slovakian heritage for the biennial culture fair at All Saints Catholic School, the seventh-grader discovered that her grandfather loved pierogi treats. She also learned that her mother never had the opportunity to try one. So Anna decided to make pierogies as part of her project.
“It was so easy,” Anna exclaimed. “I’m glad we all got to try it.”
All Saints school was filled with stories and showcases of students’ ancestry at its culture fair on April 9. Interactive displays, like Moritz’s, lined the hallways of the school. In the gymnasium, students brought cultural artistic traditions to life through dance and song.
All Saints Principal Jeanne Von Feldt told the crowd at the culture fair, “We are very diverse at this school and we celebrate that. You’re going to see this in action today.”
All Saints’ swing choir — a new ensemble as of last fall — participated in the culture fair by performing traditional dances in costume. They performed a Lebanese Dabke, an Argentinian Tango, an Italian Tarantella and an Indian Kathek.
Ensemble directors said the students put a lot of time and energy into learning the dances. Rehearsals for the culture fair began just after Christmas. The directors — Meechee McNeal, Kelly Rohlf and Cheryl Jones — said the process was a learning experience for them, too. “We had to learn the dances ourselves in order to teach the students,” McNeal said. “We wanted to show honor and respect to each of the cultures we represented.”
Individual students also had an opportunity to perform cultural songs and dances at the fair. Students from the Vietnamese Lai family sang a cultural song. Catherine Roe, a student with Irish heritage, performed Irish dance routines as the crowd clapped to the beat. Roe, a sixth-grader, has been taking lessons since she was 4 years old. “Irish dancing is such a fun experience. I wanted to give my classmates a chance to see what it was like,” she said.
Additionally, the elementary choirs performed native songs. They sang well-known cultural classics such as Australia’s “Waltzing Matilda,” as well as less-familiar songs such as the Japanese “Rain Song.” Fifth-graders concluded the concert with a performance of “We are the World.”
All students in sixth and seventh grade were required to research one of their countries of origin for the hallway displays, said social studies teacher Sandy Thomson. She said the students are currently learning about immigration in their social studies classes and the projects “tied in perfectly.” Students were required to explore the demographics of their country of choice, as well as the geography and details of the culture. The students were required to include an interactive element in their displays. Some students chose to include ethnic food while others offered music, family photos or religious statues. Many of the displays featured Vietnam, Germany, Mexico and Ireland. Some countries, such as Slovakia and Jamaica, were represented for the first time.
Referring to the diversity in the school, Thomson said, “It is nice to see the different areas people come from and learn more about them.”