Dillon Valley Elementary celebrates 3rd annual Mother Tongue Day event; experience culture of 15 countries | SummitDaily.com

Dillon Valley Elementary celebrates 3rd annual Mother Tongue Day event; experience culture of 15 countries

A kaleidoscope of culture was on display at Dillon Valley Elementary Thursday afternoon as the school held its third annual Mother Tongue Day event, where students were treated to food, dance and language lessons from over a dozen nations.

Officially known as "International Mother Language Day," UNESCO established February 21 as a day for the world to celebrate lingual diversity and promote the exchange of cultural memory and traditions. The day is born out of a national holiday in Bangladesh, where a revolutionary war was fought to keep the South Asian country's language and cultural heritage.

Principal Kendra Carpenter explained that the school puts on the event to represent the increasingly diverse student body.

"We are dual-language, but our student body has gotten quite diverse," Carpenter explained. "We have a growing population from places like Uzbekistan and the Czech Republic, and we wanted to honor that and encourage students to have pride for where they come from."

This year, the event was themed around food and dance. The opening act featured students performing a dance from Uzbekistan celebrating Nowruz, the Persian new year corresponding with the March equinox.

"We started with that dance, and then the presenter explained a little bit about why they celebrate Nowruz," said school counselor Joe Johnson, who was the main organizer of the event. "The performance opened your eyes to all these things that happen in other places. Now whenever we have an equinox or a solstice I'll think of Nowruz and the people who celebrate it."

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Students then rotated through classrooms featuring food stations and dance from 15 different nations by 20 different presenters. Argentina, Austria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, France, India, Israel, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Peru and Spain were all represented by students and parents from those nations.

"At each station, we learned a little bit about the country, such as what the language sounds like, the food they eat and what their landscapes look like," Carpenter explained.

Johnson described the station visits as a kind of scaled down "It's a Small World" ride for all the senses.

"They ate crepes from France and watched the Austrian waltz. They also learned about the history of the Quinceanera, as well as the Hora dance from Israel, the 100 days celebration from Korea and other unique things about each country."

Carpenter said that the kids considered the Mother Tongue Day event "the best thing all year," as they do every year.

"They loved it," she said. "It's so great just to see our kids smiling with pride as their cultures are honored with dance and music. They all should be proud of where they come from."

Carpenter added that the event was also a touching experience as she saw the immense joy and pride both students and parents got from representing their countries of origin.

"A parent from El Salvador presented with her children from the first and third grades," she recalled. "It was just so great to see how proud the kids were of their mother and how she talked about their country."

Carpenter said that the event also exhibited the welcoming nature of Dillon Valley and Summit to people from other nations who might feel alone out in the Colorado mountains.

"Summit can be an isolating place," she said. "There is not a lot of global diversity here, but this brings it all together. This was a joyous celebration, and that culture of welcoming is what makes Dillon Valley great."