As you venture down the hallways of Long Hill School, you may wonder why you hear a kindergarten class playing Simon Says in Portuguese. It may surprise you to see a first grade class creating paper lanterns to celebrate Diwali.

These exciting activities are not being taught by our teachers — they are being taught by parents and grandparents in our classrooms. These experiences are thanks to a new initiative that our TESOL teacher, Mrs. Marr, has started in our school.
The “Culture in the Classroom” program is encouraging our families to come into our learning communities and share their cultures and traditions.

“Having family members come into the classroom to share their personal stories and experiences provide students with a deeper insight into different cultures than they could ever get from reading about them in a book,” states Mrs. Marr. “I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring and what students will be learning about and experiencing from other families.”

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,” shares Mrs. 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, he 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.”

After hearing her mother read to the class a book about Diwali, Ayati Dhawan, told her teacher that she likes when her mom reads her a story at home and was “very happy she 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.

These unique, firsthand experiences will continue to broaden the students’ understanding of world cultures.

“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.