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Marvin Elementary Stresses Globalization

Marvin Elementary Principal Dr. Jay Jones stands with the Greek students who performed at the Global Festival: from left, George Holevas, Manny Mavroidis, Andrianna Mahairas, Emma Stone, Maria Mahairas and Christina Liapis.

(Story reprinted with permission from the Charlotte Observer)
Marvin Elementary School off Marvin School Road near Ballantyne is making globalization a major priority, and the students are benefitting.

On June 5, Marvin held its second annual Global Festival – a day students have been working toward all year. According to Judith Freger, a teacher at Marvin and the globalization facilitator, each grade picked a different continent at the beginning of the school year and each class picked a country within that continent to focus on.

“Last year the parents brought stuff in for the festival, but this year the kids have been working on projects concerning their countries all year,” Freger said.

The gymnasium and library were filled with booths featuring information on and items from the continents and countries. There were Chinese paper lanterns, colored flags of every country, Brazilian-style music-makers, giant labeled maps created by the students and more. Marvin families also lent the school items that originated in the foreign lands, including Asian dolls, Greek celebration items, African masks, South American drums and Middle Eastern dress.

Sydney Lineberry, a fourth-grader at Marvin, appeared particularly interested in learning about the different countries. Though her grade was assigned Africa, she studied the large map of Brazil with care.

“I think this is a great idea, because it gives everyone an idea about different cultures so they can all learn about them,” Sydney said.

Classmate Sienna Maraist wore a Peruvian shawl to school on festival day. Her mother is from Peru, and Sienna wanted to celebrate her heritage.

According to Freger, a large percentage of the children at Marvin either speak another language or are learning another language. On weekends, the school serves as a location for Reyhadh Elsaleheen, an Islamic weekend school.

But it’s not just learning about other cultures that makes Marvin special, she said – it’s bringing those cultures together.

Kendall Byers, Sophie Gattis and Colby Parks, all fourth-graders at Marvin, have been friends for several years. This year, Rashi Jagani joined their class, having just moved back to America from India. The girls became instant friends, and as Rashi learned Bollywood dancing, she started teaching her new friends.

“Rashi wanted us all to dance together for the Global Festival, and we thought it would be really fun, so we just started practicing and practicing. It got really hard at times, but we just kept doing it and now I guess we’ve come a long way,” Colby said.

Kendall said she really liked learning Bollywood dancing, which is so different from the standard tap, jazz, and ballet that she has grown up with.

“When I started teaching them, they didn’t really understand the gestures and everything, so it was hard to get them to do it, but as we started practicing a lot more, they kind of got it,” Rashi said.

In the end, the girls not only learned a new form of dance, they learned about each other’s cultural and religious differences.

“It has been beautiful to witness the girls as they honor one another in light of cultural differences, which too often become a barrier in developing relationships,” said Laurie Gattis, Sophie’s mother.

Other dancers performing at the festival were Irish dancers, a solo Indian dance and Greek dancers.

The school also formed the Marvin Elementary School Global Singers, led by choral director Lisa Andrews. The group spent the year learning different types of harmony from all over the world; at the festival they performed songs from Ireland, West Africa, Scotland, Israel, Holland and Mexico.

According to Principal Dr. Jay Jones, the Union County school system has stressed globalization for the past few years, and each school has incorporated that expectation in different ways.

“We try to open up the kids’ eyes to different cultures and their languages, dress, music, food and customs, because we feel like that is going to allow them to have that perspective of appreciating those differences and have a better relationship with the folks they are going to be living and working with in their futures,” Jones said.

Next year, Marvin will begin a Mandarin Chinese immersion program that will take one class from kindergarten through fifth grade.

According to Jones, there already is a waiting list for the program.

Written by: Lauren Bailey is a freelance writer for the Charlotte Observer
Posted: Jun 15, 2012 by Marni Menkin

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