Clayton Early Learning
21Jan/16Off

Another Successful Celebration of Culture

Peter Blank

December 18th, 2015 was a special day for all members of the Clayton Early Learning family, it marked the 10th celebration of Culture Night at our schools and wrapped up another great Culture Week celebration! This year, between 75-100 families participated in the event, which focused on stories and storytelling.

To get a better sense of Culture Night’s importance at Clayton, and the equally as exciting Culture Week, I asked Kelsey Petersen-Hardie, with some help from Charmaine Lewis, both of the Cultural Competency Work-group to share with us how it all began.

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Peter: I know the big celebration has come and gone for this year, but I wanted to help clarify Culture Night at Clayton Early Learning for our readers. What is it exactly?

Kelsey: Culture Night is a night we invite children and their families, staff and our families, and community members to our schools to come together and learn about cultures and build our school community in a celebratory environment.  We have three objectives with Culture Night:

  • To create an interactive and visual experience for children, families, staff, and community members to explore the many cultures of Clayton Early Learning through the shared experience of a cultural aspect.
  • To prompt deeper thinking by delving more deeply into an element of culture that is shared by all families and staff, but experienced differently.
  • To provide developmentally appropriate experiences to build children’s foundational knowledge of culture.

P: And this year’s theme was Story Telling, correct? How was this theme chosen?

K: The theme this year was Stories and Storytelling.  Each year families and staff have the opportunity to vote on a cultural theme in September.  There are 10-12 cultural themes to choose from, all representing elements that all cultures share, yet experience differently.

P: That’s great. When did it begin? And why?

K: Because our community is so diverse, Culture Night was created to honor the diversity that each family, child, and staff member brings to our school family.  It has been a celebration that promotes curiosity and respect for differences, as well as similarities.

[According to Charmaine, culture night began back in 2005].

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Enjoying the Storybook Parade!

P: Wow! This tradition has been around for quite some time. Has Culture Week always been part of the celebration as well?

K:  No, Culture Week was implemented 3 or 4 years ago to extend the learning opportunities that are available through preparations for Culture Night.  As Culture Night has evolved to provide meaningful and developmentally appropriate experiences in an early childhood setting, we learned that one night was scratching the surface (one week still is scratching the surface, but allows a little more time to get our community engaged in the content).  Currently, teachers begin planning for intentional experiences in their daily lessons in October and November.

P: I know firsthand that all this planning and hard work paid off -- I was able to catch the Storybook Parade at Educare during Culture Week and had a smile the entire time. It was so fun to watch each classroom parade down the hallway, dressed in their favorite storybook theme. What other activities were part of this year’s celebration?

K: This year we had some of our own Storytelling heroes share their own storytelling methods with our children and families during the week, like preschool lead teacher/puppet show master Paul Mezzacapo, and Community Mentor Coach/children’s book author Lorrel Esterbrook.  During Culture Night, guests were invited to experience a variety of activities to encourage reflection on their own cultural practices and beliefs about stories and storytelling, including making a recording of themselves telling a story for their children to listen to, going on a bear hunt, and exploring family stories through cuisine.

P: Sounds like there were plenty of activities for everyone, thanks for sharing!

bear cave

Beware of the bear! Bear cave at Culture Night.

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All in all, Culture Night and Week was another huge success for all the children, families, and staff at Clayton Early Learning. As Kelsey mentioned, it is always important for our diverse Clayton family to come together and celebrate what makes us simultaneously unique and similar.  This togetherness helps make Clayton Early Learning such a special place for all. A big thank you to all of the hard work from staff and families that made this year’s Culture Night/Week celebrations a success!

 

Interested in other Culture Night stories?! Check out these blog posts from the archives, recapping previous years’ events.

http://www.claytonearlylearning.org/blog/culture-night-at-clayton-early-learning-schools/

http://www.claytonearlylearning.org/blog/celebrating-culture-our-schools-approach-to-building-a-community-of-respect/

Peter Blank

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