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Lower School Celebrates Cultural Cornucopia

The Principia Lower School gym has never smelled so good and looked like such a vibrant hub of cultural diversity as it did after school on April 1, 2022, during the Lower School’s first-ever Festival of Cultures. The aromas of culinary delights wafted through the gym as students whose families hail from nine different countries shared vibrant displays of flags, languages, fauna, and fun facts from distant lands. They even took part in a mini fashion show of traditional clothing.

Moving beyond the typical "food and flags" project, this event was particularly special because of the authentic representation and pride behind each student’s displays. The festival provided a moving opportunity for the students and families to share their unique heritage—whether the students were born abroad, are first-generation Americans, or have in-depth knowledge of their ancestry.

The Biro family was a hit with German sausage and brown-mustard sauce. 

One family whose father left East Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall shared traditional German sausage with dark mustard sauce. Another family had parents from both Ecuador and Guatemala presenting colorful displays representing both countries. All students and children who attended were encouraged to fill out a Festival of Cultures “passport,” answering questions about the displays and getting their passports “stamped” with a sticker.

"We have such diverse and robust representation from different cultures, and that makes us unique,” said Lower School Principal Heather Tibbetts. “It's really quite beautiful. The families that created the displays were so thrilled to share their culture with the students, parents, and teachers. One person came to me crying tears of joy and said, 'This event is so special. Thanks for giving us an outlet to share.'"

Several Bosnian families have worked and learned at Principia for decades.

The displays represented cultures from nine different countries: Bosnia, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Guatemala, India, Italy, Poland, and The Netherlands, with some students representing families from more than one country.

At the center of the Lower School gym was a display of “Art Link”—a project that Lower School art classes have been doing with students from other countries for several years. Principia students create drawings of American cultural experiences like Halloween and summer camp. And, in exchange, students from other countries share their artwork about culturally significant events in their lives.

There was also a table where children could write supportive notes to send to a school in Poland that is currently housing and teaching Ukrainian refugees. And parents could make donations to aid those refugees. Students lovingly wrote uplifting messages to the refugees—making connections between their own cultures and that challenging situation halfway around the world.

One parent summed it best at the end of the event: “What a wonderful opportunity for students to be proud of their country.”

The Thompson brothers and their mom, Upper School art teacher Grace Bonwich share their Polish heritage at the Festival of Cultures.

Nour and her mother provide insights into ancient and modern Egyptian culture.

All students and visiting children completed a Festival of Cultures passport to dig deeper into each display.

Twin brothers Ekam and Tejus celebrated multiple cultural heritages from both sides of their family.