By Rama K. Ramaswamy
John D. Hardy Elementary School’s debut Multicultural Festival (HMF) was organized by the school’s parents, PTO and the World Of Wellesley (WOW). Members of the planning committee ranged from Hardy staff and teachers to WPS staff and teachers as well as employed the diversity and benefitted from commitment of the parent community: Principal of Hardy School, Charlene Cook; WPS teachers, Karen Pekowitz, Kristen Ferraro, Lisa Rogers, Janet Rixon, Anne Higgins, Thomas Corcoran and Elementary Orchestra Director and Instrumental and Vocal Extension Program (IVEP) Secretary Russell Wilson and Parents/ PTO, Rama K. Ramaswamy, Sara Recio Mazorra, Michelle Fang, Zongyan Han, Yang Wang, Min Yang.
There were almost 20 hands-on workshops in classroom as well as performances in the gym space. For workshop leaders, the planning committee drew from all the Wellesley Schools as well as from the greater community of Dana Hall School and Wellesley College Centers For Women. Workshop leaders included Russell Wilson, Thomas Corcoran, María Lavilla Canga, Min Yang, Christine Carpenter, Sara Recio Mazorra, Jennifer Lee, Elizabeth Lee, Jin Hee Lee, Choonwoo Lee, Ran Ye, Jean Wu, Qianning Ma, Patty Sibanda, Felicity Sant, Layli and Seboelyn Maparyan, Lisa Rogers, Yang Wang, Qin Shuren, Michelle Fang, Jo Zhou, Carrie Huang, Maliha Khawaja, Xiulan Li, Allen Wu, Xuanxuan Gan, and Dana Hall Students Cindy Huang, Echo Chen, Yanan Dai, Evelyn Lai, Tori Li and Helen Chen. The Dana Hall students brought in their own custom-made Chinese instruments, such as the Chinese guitar and zither.
The HMF planning committee earmarked a special thank you to the school’s “PTO leadership, Ansley Martin, Elizabeth McDonough and Claire Brockelman.” Other volunteer included Hardy’s 5th grade committee and parents Amy Wagner and Lisa Fico, who, according to HMF organizers, “along with 12 fifth-graders, decorated the school, put up room signs and helped to organize the event all the up to just a few minutes prior to go-time.” In addition, HMF organizers said, “WHS Key Club President Abby Yuan, along with parent volunteers Marat Alimzhanov, Ansley Martin, Carolyn Mackin Watson, Margaret Lynch, and Michelle Fang were instrumental for the event’s success.” Lastly, HMF organizers were specific in expressing their thanks to the school staff, “the team that makes sure that each and every school event runs smoothly from start to clean up and in-between; a ‘Hardy’ thank you goes out to Freddie and Eduardo!”
According to WOW, “World of Wellesley is dedicated to making Wellesley, Massachusetts a welcoming community where diversity is celebrated. In partnership with many local institutions and organizations, we organize events, projects, and programs that emphasize the value in exploring our many cultures, religions, and ways of life.”
Many people define "culture" as the sum of customs and attitudes that distinguishes any one group of people from another. The numerous K-5th graders (and their parents) who attended said that they “found we had more similarities rather than differences, and that in learning about each other's cultures, we found some things surprising, other things we already knew, but most of all everything was super fun.”
Thomas Corcoran, Hardy’s music teacher, rallied K-1st graders to sing a “hello song” saying hello in several languages and Russell Wilson, Elementary Orchestra Director and Instrumental and Vocal Extension Program (IVEP) secretary pulled together the Elementary Orchestra students from all of Wellesley’s elementary schools to perform a Korean instrumental composition. Maria Lavilla Canga volunteered and showcased her students’ Spanish flamenco dance talents. Other workshops included Australian handballing technique demonstrations and aboriginal dot-art, Korean writing and picking up jelly-beans with chopsticks, Pakistani-Indian henna art and a showcase of Liberian culture as well as that of Zimbabwe.
“It was wonderful to celebrate the diverse cultures here at the Hardy School," said Karen Pekowitz, Hardy teacher. "Kids and grown-ups both learned so much about each other and were able to feel empowered to share important parts of themselves with our community. Such a event exemplifies the Hardy RISE culture. I can't wait until next year's event!”
“I loved the event," added Sue Stewart, a parent from Upham School. "It was so hard to choose one workshop when I wanted to attend them all!”
A few workshop leaders, such as Yang Wang, said that she participated because, “as many other multicultural families in Wellesley, we would like to have our children grow up with confidence in their identity, being proud of who they are themselves. Having a multicultural even is great for the kids to learn more about their own culture and explore others.”
Zongyan Han ran the Chinese Paper Cutting workshop and said, “as we know that many kids have learned about making paper cuts, it is the first time they are told that paper cutting art may date back to 2nd century, since the paper was invented in China. It is interesting to know the history and background of a culture or tradition. Kids are also excited when they finish their paper cuttings of Chinese traditional patterns and characters … One of the attendees said the event is so successful that she could not believe it is Hardy's first time to hold one. It should be held very year!”
According to Michelle Fang, who was part of the planning committee, ran one of the workshops (making Chinese lanterns) and helped out at the registration desk, “I wanted to participate in this event because I always wanted to see this happen at Hardy. Our school community consists of families from over 25 countries under one roof. I thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate this. It was great to see the kids and families experience and learn something new from a different culture. As our community becomes more diverse, it's important to educate our kids about our differences and learn to appreciate them. All workshop volunteers were most enthusiastic when it came to educating the kids and families, who were also eager to participate and learn.”
For more information about the World Of Wellesley, visit www.worldofwellesley.org. To see the video of the Hardy Multicultural Festival, courtesy of Wellesley Media Corporation, visit youtu.be/FuUmirlnZ_Q.