International Day luncheon provides a melting pot of learning opportunities

A variety of cuisines puts a celebratory stamp on cultural lessons

administrator and student

Students filed into the conference room at the Valhalla Center eager to share what they’d learned about the culture and cuisine of the various heritages their classes represent. 

The International Day luncheon they staged with support and direction from educators in the program turned the space into a colorfully decorated dining hall.

Flag-themed placemats adorned each place setting. Posters and other displays detailed all they’d learned about different countries.

And while it wasn’t only about food, this was a luncheon. Trays of food represented the national origins on which each class focused its recent lessons, from kielbasa (Polish) and spice bread bun and cheese (Jamaican) to hard and soft shell tacos (Mexican) and meatballs, cannoli and bruschetta (Italian). 

“This was an opportunity to teach our students about the different cultures and backgrounds each of us has and how we come together as one class,” Teacher Allison Waskiewicz said. 

educators at serving buffet

Her class chose Italy as their country and worked on a slide presentation to educate their peers.

Teacher Karen Walker and her students all wore colorful tie-dyed T-shirts and shared Jamaican cuisine like jerk chicken, rice and peas, and rasta pasta. This was a chance to learn how to accept different cultures and to teach tolerance of others who are from different backgrounds, Ms Walker said. 

Quesadillas were already being provided by the school cafeteria, so Teacher Lisa Culler’s students opted for a popular alternative in tacos as one of their contributions of Mexican fare. 

“It’s wonderful to learn about each country, how they live, and where certain points of history come from,” Ms. Culler said. 

student and teacher by dining table

When most of us think of pyramids, we think of Egypt, she added as an example, so the pyramids of Mexico were a big part of her class’s lessons.

 One of Teacher Jesse Fierro’s students is from Jordan, making that country their choice. They focused on Petra, an archeological site in the Jordan desert.

They created a cardboard model of Petra as well as bracelets to represent the Jordanian flag’s colors. Some of the cuisine they sampled included Bishi, which is like an Italian zeppole, Choreg, which is like an Easter bread, and hummus. They also made falafels and cupcakes arranged in the colors of the Jordan flag.

“I think it is very important for students to explore new ideas,” Mr. Fierro said. “Students were able to create things that they were not really used to creating. Students were open and able to try new foods, which is a beneficial skill. It’s great that we can come together as a program and celebrate all these countries and ideas and be able to see the happiness within our students.”