Culture program highlights Long Hill School’s diversity

We all come from different places and have unique and varied backgrounds, and as you enter Long Hill School, you will see how visible this is.
Long Hill School supports students and families of 16 different languages and cultures within the learning environment. These languages include Spanish, Italian, Albanian, Kannada, Lao, Arabic, Punjabi, Polish, Hindu, Russian, Ukrainian, Urdu, Creole (Cape Verdean), Kurdish, Mandarin and Uzbek.
Sara Marr, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) specialist at Long Hill, used money from a three-year Project Excel grant to initiate a program in the school to encourage families to come into the school and share their cultures and traditions.

According to Marr, the Culture in the Classroom program was created to “have family members come into the classroom to share their personal stories and experiences that will provide students with a deeper insight into different cultures than they could ever get from reading about them in a book.”
Cheri Rizio, a kindergarten parent, joined her father-in-law in her child’s classroom and listened as he shared stories of what it was like to grow up in Italy.
“Often lessons teach us about the facts of a country,” said Rizio. “Learning these facts don’t always paint a clear picture of what life in that country was truly like. Culture is a way of life, it’s more personal. I thought it was such a great experience to tell the story of my father-in-law. His experience living in Italy was far different than what a textbook would present. Sharing the culture of his Italy with the children was such a fulfilling experience.”
Jorge Fuentes’s face lit up when Mrs. DaSilva, a Long Hill School parent, visited his classroom to share her personal experiences about Brazil. Even though he is not of Brazilian descent, Jorge realized that Brazil plays the same sport his own family enjoys.
“I liked when she showed me pictures of the futbol team because I am going to play futbol,” said Jorge.
Upon hearing her mother read a book about Diwali to her class, Ayati Dhawan told her teacher that she likes when her mom reads a story at home and was “very happy she came and read a story to our class. Now my friends know how I celebrate my special holiday.” The story, video and parent presentation gave Ayati’s first grade class a glimpse into one of her family’s holiday traditions.

And if you ventured down the hallways of the school you just might also see a kindergarten class playing “Simon Says” in Portuguese or a first grade class creating paper lanterns to celebrate Diwali or other children celebrating the Chinese New Year or singing, counting and writing words or phrases in another language.
Long Hill School Principal Andrea D’Aiuto said that students feel connected when their families share their cultures with their peers.
“These unique, firsthand experiences will continue to broaden the students’ understanding of world cultures,” said D’Aiuto. “Culture in the Classroom not only provides our families an opportunity to teach us about their heritage, but also creates a bridge between our families, students, and teachers. It has allowed students to feel proud of their culture. Every family has a story to tell and Long Hill School has an audience waiting to hear it.”