Students attending East Heights School learn about holiday celebrations.
East Heights students spent Tuesday morning spinning dreidels, breaking a pinata and painting an adinkra cloth.
It wasn't all fun and games.
The kindergartners and first- and second-graders were learning about four winter holidays: Kwanzaa, a black American pride holiday; Hanukkah, a Jewish celebration; Las Posadas, a Mexican holiday involving pinatas; and Christmas, the Christian holiday honoring the birth of Jesus Christ.
"I think it represents the different cultures," kindergarten teacher Shea Stanfield said. "We're a diverse school, and I think it's important to represent those cultures. It's only fair."
Students were divided into four groups. Each group spent an hour learning about one of the four holidays, and doing activities related to it. They will repeat the process three more times during the next two weeks until the students have visited all four holiday rooms.
"We want the children to understand other perspectives and to celebrate being different," Stanfield said. "Being different is part of who we are, and doing something different is acceptable. It's OK."
Stanfield presented Christmas traditions and gave each student a packet of reindeer food to take home. The packets contained glitter, to guide the reindeer when placed on the ground, and oats for them to eat.
"The kids love it," she said.
Students in Tom Ballou's second-grade classroom listened to an African folk tale and painted the adinkra cloth that resembles one produced in Ghana.
They talked about the guiding principles behind Kwanzaa, including Umoja (unity) and Imani (faith). Kwanzaa is observed Dec. 26-Jan. 1.
Second-grader Erica Demby munched on peanuts and candy after one of her classmates hit a pinata as part of the Mexican celebration, Las Posadas.
"I only knew about Christmas," Erica said. "But it's fun that I learned about Las Posadas." The holiday begins nine days before Christmas. Each night families travel to a different house for a party.
Students in Erica's group also made construction paper "candles" and discussed the origins of poinsettia plants, called "las flores de noche buena" in Mexico.
"I think one of the important things about this is that students worked in mixed (age) groups," guidance counselor Liz Novick said. "It shows the unity of the school and gives students an opportunity to learn together."
Novick presented the story of Hanukkah, and helped the students prepare potato latkes, or pancakes, a popular food prepared during Hanukkah. Hanukkah begins after sundown Dec. 13 and lasts for eight days.
"I learned we light the candles for tradition," said second-grader LeMorris Lowery.
LeMorris won the dreidel game -- a dreidel is a four-sided toy marked with Hebrew letters and spun like a top in a game of chance -- and helped fix latkes.
"For getting boiled in oil, they were pretty good," he said.
Students made a paper dreidel to take home and listened to Hebrew disco music.
"We wanted them to see cultural diversity," Novick said. "This will build up more of an understanding, and more tolerance and respect."
--JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail message is firstname.lastname@example.org.