Experience other cultures

International night at Foothills educates, entertains

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By Suzy Smith
Blount Today

Fourth grader Haley Cunningham learned about playing soccer in Ireland. First grader Will Gibson enjoyed a cookie from South Africa and second grader Bailey Baker liked the intricate Japanese origami.

In celebration of National Turn off the TV Night, more than 200 Foothills Elementary students came to sample the cultures of more than 20 countries for the school’s third annual International Night.

"Kids are kids," said David Gordon, one of the 40 volunteers who helped make International Night a success. Gordon, a Denso employee, and several other parents of Foothills students worked for three weeks on the Japan exhibit. "We want to show the similarities of Japanese children and American children."

Students learned some Japanese greetings and were treated to origami flowers, shogun warrior paper hats and teriyaki chicken, just at the Japan display alone.

The children discovered Australian culture from Dianna Vermilyea, parent of Foothills Elementary first grader, Cole Vermilyea. Dianna Vermilyea, who lived in Alice Springs, Australia, when she was 9-years-old, showed the students her uniform from Girl Guides, the Australian equivalent of Girl Scouts. She blew into a Didgeridoo, a musical instrument, and she served vegemite sandwiches. "They eat it like we eat peanut butter," Vermilyea said of the brewer’s paste that they spread thinly on bread and crackers.

Upon arrival to International Night, students were greeted by a volunteer in a flight attendant uniform and were given a passport booklet with about a dozen questions to answer about the countries they visited. At each country display, children received stamps for their passports and if they listened to volunteers, they were provided the information to answer the questions from their passports. Students who turned in their passports to their teachers the following day were eligible for prizes ranging from candy from Denmark, a Hacky Sack from Guatemala and a wooden flute from the Philippines, among others.

"We want to show what it is like to be a kid in another country," said Julie Foncea, the volunteer who spearheaded the project for the third year. She said the first year seven countries were presented and this year more than 15 countries were researched and displayed by Foothills Elementary family volunteers. Eight countries were also represented by students from the Center for English Language Learning at Maryville College.

In preparation for International Night, students at Foothills Elementary have been celebrating diversity by learning facts about other states and countries in which students were born.

"We want to help children and encourage them to listen and learn about other countries," said Amy Vagnier, principal of Foothills Elementary.

Parents enjoyed the evening almost as much as their children. Bryan Jones, father of Foothills Elementary first grader, Devon Jones, said he wanted to expose his son to different countries and cultures. Bryan Jones traveled to Rome and London on a student exchange program and has also traveled to South Korea and India.

"It’s fun to get out of the house," said fourth grader, Cara Greenacre. "I like it because we learn, and I really like the food, too."

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