Around the world in 80 days?

Students at Seymour-Jackson Elementary School were able to make the trip in just a couple of hours recently during the school’s annual Cultural Night Celebration.

During the event, students and their families were given the chance to experience nine different countries by sampling their cuisines and checking out displays of crafts and other cultural information from each.

The displays were created by teachers and staff with help from the students who spent time studying the cultures in the classroom beforehand.

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From the people to the languages to the customs, Cultural Night highlights and embraces diversity by educating both children and adults.

Countries represented this year were Germany, Japan, China, Italy, Mexico, Guatemala, Russia, Scotland and the United States.

Jackson has the largest population of English Language Learners students in the Seymour Community Schools district with students coming from several different countries.

The school doesn’t take its diversity for granted and promotes culture throughout the school year, teachers said.

Fourth-grade teacher Lizz Patterson said the atmosphere created by Cultural Night is her favorite part of the event.

Her students were in charge of Germany and created German polka hats for all who attended. They also served up German sausage with sauerkraut and pretzels.

Visitors to Germany were greeted with a “hallo,” meaning hello, and were told “danke,” which means thank you.

Fourth-grader Sam Chandler said he learned Berlin was the capital of Germany and the Berlin Wall separated the western part of the country from the eastern part before it was torn down.

“We also learned that their language is German,” said student Brandon Rodriguez.

“And that they have different types of sausage they like, called brats,” added classmate Grace Lewis. “And they have sauerkraut.”

Most of the students said the sauerkraut was “OK” but not their favorite.

Claire Wisler, however, said sauerkraut is something she’s used to eating because her family is Polish, which is basically German, she said.

Besides brats and sauerkraut, Rodriguez said he also learned that many people like to drink beer in Germany.

“It’s considered as a food there,” he said.

Learning about other cultures is fun and can be very helpful, the students said.

“It helps you if you want to travel the world so you know about places you might want to go,” Lewis said.

“And I like it because I’m learning about where my family is from,” Wisler added.

Patterson said many cultures are present in Jackson’s classrooms every day.

“Having events like Cultural Night allows students and families to express themselves and visit new places they may not have a chance to become familiar with before,” she said. “Students have a chance to show what they know about their heritage and their classmates’ heritage.”

The event is a great way for teachers to interact with students and their families in a unique way, she added.

“It’s nice to see learning happening in a non-classroom setting,” she said. “Plus, who wouldn’t want to try all the amazing food?”

Foods ranged from teriyaki chicken and pocky sticks from Japan to General Tso’s chicken from China and from tortilla chips, salsa and authentic horchata, or almond water, from Mexico to hot dogs and apple pie from the United States.

Students Railie Martin, 8, and Kinsey Martin, 7, were excited about taking their mom, Faren Martin, and grandmother, Darlene Gayhart, around to all of the different countries.

Both girls said they liked the food from China the most.

“Mmmmm, it’s yummy,” Kinsey said.

Railie said she liked learning about the different foods and clothing.

“It’s very interesting,” she said.

They also made flags and dragons to display in their classes.

Faren said she appreciated that her children were being exposed to different cultures and would grow up being more accepting of diversity.

“It’s great that they get to experience something like this at this age,” she said. “And I’m glad I get to be here with them.”

Second-graders didn’t have to go too far to learn more about their country — the United States of America.

Students worked in teams to research the different states and then presented what they had learned to their class, teacher Angie Engle said.

“We also did a study of how we became a country, the history of the flag and the meaning behind the national anthem,” she said. “It was a lot of work but so much fun for both students and teachers.”

Engle said the diversity at Jackson is what makes it such a great place to work and go to school.

“Jackson is such a unique school because it’s such a small town, but there is such a wide range of cultures all in one place,” she said. “We all have unique and individual gifts. We just need to appreciate what each of us as individuals bring to the table. Many adults, sadly, haven’t learned to do that. To see children learning the value in that lesson so early is beyond rewarding.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.