My wife, Kay, transferred from Charter Grove country school
to a Sycamore school called Southeast Elementary more than 60
years ago when it was brand new. She and I returned there recently
at the invitation of her nephew Steven Wirsing, whose daughter
Claras class was celebrating Multicultural Day.
This special study project was begun eight years ago by
third-grade teacher Kyla Hueber, who said, As a part of
our social studies unit, we study different cultures, celebrations
Many students were interested in where their
families came from
and we had them research a country
of their choice.
Southeast Elementary third grade teacher Lynelle Lynd
explains the reason behind Multicultural Day to parents and guests
in her classroom recently (Barry Schrader photo)
She and another teacher, Lynelle Lynd, have continued this
effort involving weeks of study culminating in the one-day event.
Pupils each report on two facts they have learned about
another country, whether its their ancestral homeland or
some other nation they find interesting. Then some of the parents
bring in a native food from the country to share with everyone
who attends. Hueber brought in an old family recipe flatbread
from Norway. Lynd prepared Swedish rice pudding, one of my wifes
favorites since her mothers ancestors came from Sweden.
Thank goodness she didnt bring another Swedish delicacy
lutefisk which would have smelled up the whole
Anyway, I learned some new facts that day about countries
such as China, Mexico, Poland, Ireland, Papua New Guinea, Sweden,
Italy, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Australia, Egypt, Germany, Kenya,
The Netherlands, Slovakia, Russia, Georgia, Greece, Brazil and
Sweden. Now I can tell you what five countries border Slovakia
(just ask me).
The teachers bring in speakers from other countries, whether
that person is a relative of a third-grader, an exchange student,
or an international scholar at Northern Illinois University.
What a wonderful experience for these youngsters to learn firsthand
from people from other cultures, religions and ethnicities.
When I was in school at Genoa, I never knew anyone from
outside the U.S., not until I went off to NIU and joined the
International Students Association. I have continued contacts
with people from other nations as much as possible, most recently
through the Network of Nations involving college students from
dozens of countries. It really broadens your horizon and makes
you realize we are a minority in the world of nations.
So kudos to those teachers and others like them for affording
young people the opportunity to become acquainted with places
and people they will someday have to interact with, hopefully
in harmony and not in war.