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Celebrating multiculturalism in the classroom

JULIE SUTOR
Summit Daily/Julie SutorFrisco Elementary fourth graders Amber Pennington and Gregory Cook sculpt clay masks in their art class Tuesday. The final products will be on display next week in the Silverthorne Pavilion during Celebrations Around the World.
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SILVERTHORNE – Local fourth-graders are elbow-deep in multiculturalism this week.Celebrations Around the World is just around the corner, and the students are preparing for it through art. The annual event, which showcases food, music and festivities from more than a dozen cultures, will also feature students’ hand-crafted masks and other pieces that draw on artistic traditions from across the globe.The works will be on display at the Silverthorne Pavilion Nov. 17-18 throughout the event.

“Interactive, hands-on projects are important in all parts of education, but they are essential to understanding personal identity and multicultural perspectives,” said Carrie Brown, cultural educator and co-founder of Celebrations Around the World.Students studied masks from Tibet, ancient Europe, Mexico, India and Bolivia and recreated them in their art classes this week.”This is the third year we’ve been doing multicultural masks for Celebrations Around the World,” said art teacher Gillian Rathbun. “I encourage them to look at the masks not just as costumes, but also to see them as part of rituals, theater and celebrations.”

Rathbun’s Frisco Elementary students had their fingers deep in sticky, gray clay Tuesday morning, carefully replicating bats, jaguars, deities and other images from a colorful assortment of photographs she had strewn across the tables.”They’ll paint them and glue on embellishments like beads, glue and feathers. That’s the fun part. And the kids are so proud of the masks when they’re completed,” Rathbun said.Rathbun will label each mask with its country of origin when she hangs the collection in the Pavilion.The town of Silverthorne and the Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) organize the event each year in collaboration with Summit School District to introduce the county’s fourth-graders – and the greater community – to a variety of cultural celebrations through the eyes of their neighbors of different ethnic backgrounds.

The fourth-graders from each elementary school visit the Pavilion during the day to participate in interactive presentations that focus on festivities from Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, West Africa, Canada, France and Native American nations. The event is open to the public during the evenings.Local businesses and community organizations sponsored the students’ art projects this year by funding the purchase of art supplies.”Art is a very effective way of allowing the students to identify with cultures presented by Celebrations Around the World,” said Eddie O’Brien of Prudential O’Brien Real Estate, which sponsored Summit Cove Elementary’s art projects. “Any type of hands-on learning allows students to become more involved with the subject matter they are studying.”

And fourth grade is the perfect opportunity to begin studying multiculturalism, according to FIRC director Christina Carlson.”It’s a good age, because they’re beginning to have some global understanding,” Carlson said. “They’re about to come out of the primary grades, and their exposure to a broader world-view is important.”Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at jsutor@summitdaily.com.


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