Maple Corner Montessori continued its International Children’s Day tradition Thursday with hands-on learning, a parade and lessons on a variety of cultures.

“We turn our classrooms into different parts of the world — such as a different continent, country or in this year’s case, a different time period,” Head of School Leanne Jorgensen said. “And the children dress up in cultural costumes from any place that they choose. They can do something from an ancestor, a place that someone is from, or a place they are interested in.”

Jorgensen has been putting on the celebration at her school in Las Vegas, and now here in Roseburg, for over 30 years. For Maple Corner, the event is held near Halloween each year.

One classroom gave students a glimpse into Parisian and Italian culture, complete with snacks at a cafe. Another was dominated by a 6-foot long cardboard replica of a Viking longship. A third was a kaleidoscope of paper plants and animals representing the South American rain forest. The final room boasted a large kangaroo used to teach students about Australia.

Cultures are chosen based on what each classroom is learning about at the time. In the elementary classrooms, students do reports on the culture their classroom will represent.

“For example, in my classroom — which is first and second grade — we’ve been studying Vikings so we turned our classroom into Scandinavia at the time of the Vikings,” Jorgensen said.

Students began the day in their own classrooms before rotating to the other rooms where they engage in activities specific to that particular culture. Each student was given a passport that travels with them and is stamped by each teacher. After a brief introductory lesson on the culture the room represents, students unleashed their creativity.

In Scandinavia, students made leather coin purses, beards and their very own Viking shields.

Students made wreaths associated with All Saints Day in the Paris and Italy room, and built mini Eiffel Towers with gummy candies and toothpicks.

Projects in the South American room included making cotton ball llamas and painting butterflies, while in Australia, students learned about the use of boomerangs while decorating a paper version of their own.

“The idea is to promote cultural awareness, understanding and togetherness. Even though we live in different parts of the globe, we celebrate the similarities and the differences in cultural traditions,” marketing director Jennifer Grafiada said. “It has been really cool. A lot of the older kids are realizing we haven’t really been able to travel as much because of the pandemic and it’s been fun to think about different places even in just this small way.”

The event concluded with a parade around the front of the school, which is housed in the Ford Family Center at Umpqua Community College. While dancing and marching to “It’s a Small World,” all 106 students showed off an array of culturally driven costumes.

A teacher dressed as a mime led the way as students dressed in traditional clothing such as dirndl dresses mixed with colorful attire popular at South American festivals. A few cowboys and ballerinas dotted the group. One young student took a trip even farther back in time by wearing a toga and laurel wreath headband.

“It’s just a way to get a taste of different cultures and also get to dress up and have treats at the same time while tying it all into our curriculum,” Jorgensen said.

Erica Welch is the special sections editor for The News-Review. She can be reached at ewelch@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4218.

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Erica Welch is the special sections editor for The News-Review, mother of two and a native of Roseburg. She is an alumni of RHS, UCC and Western Oregon University. Contact her at ewelch@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4218.

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