At Seymour Middle School, different cultures are not just studied, they are celebrated.
The school recently organized its first Culture Night, inviting students and their families to learn more about the diverse makeup of their classmates and the world in which they live.
Nearly a dozen countries were represented, including Jamaica, Germany, Japan, Mexico, France, Haiti, China, Italy, Guatemala, Honduras and Puerto Rico.
Tables were set up throughout the hallways and the library displaying the art, clothing, music, food and customs of those countries. Teachers, students and staff were available to answer questions and discuss the cultures.
Before embarking on the two-hour trip around the world, students picked up passports at the front door. Upon visiting each country’s booth, a teacher would sign the book verifying they had stopped and learned something about the location.
Students Mason Engelking and Josh Miller said the event made them more interested in learning about different cultures.
At the Japanese booth, they raced each other to see who could pick up the most pieces of candy with chopsticks and learned how to make origami and write their names in Japanese. They also got to use Google virtual glasses to immerse themselves as a tourist in a Japanese village and see Mount Fuji.
“This is the first time I’ve ever used chopsticks,” Mason said. “It’s not as hard as I thought it would be.”
Mason said he would like to be able to travel one day and experience different cultures in person.
“But this is a pretty fun way to learn, too,” he said.
The event was a huge success with many people and cultures coming together. At the end of the trip, travelers made it home to southern Indiana, where they could enjoy a plate of ham and beans with cornbread and listen to the music of John Mellencamp.
Principal J.B. Royer said the goal was to come up with a family-friendly activity to get people to come to the school and to highlight student diversity.
The corporation has 15 different languages that are spoken by students who are from more than 50 different countries.
“A big part of this was about parent involvement,” he said. “We want parents to take an interest in what their children are doing here.”
He would like to see the event grow and evolve into something bigger, like Columbus’ Ethnic Expo, involving not just Seymour Middle School but the whole community.
Seymour Middle School’s new FFA chapter chose Germany to study and focused on the agricultural climate of the country.
Agriculture teacher Micah Wallace said it was a unique way for students to explore aspects of different countries without the expense of flying halfway around the world.
“There’s a lot of German heritage here in Seymour, and they are familiar with the Oktoberfest, so they could relate to what they were learning,” she said.
Visitors had the opportunity to taste Haribo gummy bears, which originated in Germany, along with pretzels, sauerkraut and brats with brown mustard, staples at any German-themed festival.
Eighth-graders Sydney Wiesehan and Ileana Brock said they were surprised to learn Germany produces such produce as pineapples and kiwi but also raises similar livestock as Jackson County farmers, including cows, chickens and pigs.
Germany is actually the third largest agricultural exporter in the world, the girls learned.
“I thought it would be a lot different,” Sydney said of German culture. “But there are a lot of things that are the same as our culture.”