Montevallo Elementary School holds joint Multicultural Festival and Olympics event

Published 9:50 am Thursday, May 16, 2024

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO – In the spirit of diversity and inclusivity, Montevallo Elementary School held its annual Multicultural Festival again this year in a celebration that featured an added focus toward the upcoming Olympic games.

Thanks to a mutual cooperation between the school’s English as a second language department and the MES field day committee, the Multicultural Festival was morphed together with the school’s annual field day to due to the shared theme of diversity fostered by the Olympic games.

“We planted the seed for this whole thing four years ago,” Physical Education Teacher Cristan Traylor said. “This was actually something that we thought of doing four years ago (before)  COVID-19 happened. With it being an Olympic year again, we thought that we could merge the two events. So, we approached the ESL department and merged efforts with them and the field day committee to make this big event happen.”

The two-day event began on Friday, May 8 with an Olympic opening ceremony that took place at the school’s football field. As part of that ceremony, each classroom signed up to carry a different flag representing a foreign country that they would then represent at the event.

As part of the event’s tie-in approach with the multicultural festival, the usage of foreign flags approximated the look and broad diversity of the representation at the real Olympics and encouraged students to learn about the countries they were representing.

“The kids entered the field and each homeroom had two students holding a flag and we introduced each of them as they walked past,” Traylor said. “We had 37 countries represented (as part of the ceremony).”

Once all attending students had arrived, a torch relay was held that saw a student from each grade run and pass the torch forward until it reached the school administrators.

Once in possession of the ceremonial torches, school administrators “lit” the cauldron, which featured a flame made of out balloons, in a facsimile of the real event.

The event also incorporated a number of other elements that added to the pomp and circumstance of the occasion, including an appearance from Miss Teen Alabama, Ali Mims, who opened the event by signing the national anthem.

Fourth and fifth grade students who make up the Montevallo Dance Crew also performed at the event and highlighted skills that were recently recognized by the Montevallo City Council in the wake of the group’s multiple competition achievements.

The ceremony also saw students from Montevallo High School attend in varying capacities to aid in the presentation.

For added entertainment, the Montevallo High School Auxiliary flag team performed during the opening ceremony as the Olympic flag was raised and the theme played.

“Our high school cheerleaders also came and stood (at the entrance of the field) and cheered as the kids came through,” Traylor said. “We also had the high school ESL students come and help out at the event, especially once we broke into smaller groups back in the building for the activities.”

Those activities, which embodied the spirit of the school’s Multicultural Festival, included presentations, guest speakers and a number of demonstrations that highlighted cultures and their important contributions to the world.

“We just wanted to put something on that showcased diversity and inclusiveness,” said Jennifer Rosado, an ESL teacher at MES. “This year was kind of a bigger event because we’ve combined it with field day. All of the kids dressed up as either their own culture or a culture that they are interested in and we had all of the classes do research on a country or a different culture.”

Rosado is one of three teachers who form the department. Rosado along with teachers Shay Wynne, Hannah Sierra and the school’s two bilingual aides, Carmen Vaccarella and Cristina Angeles, make up the department which is responsible for aiding students that hold English as a secondary language.

While Montevallo Elementary School’s current ESL population is 100 percent Hispanic, Rosado and other teachers focused on the importance of highlighting all cultures around the world and sought to highlight as many as possible for the event. In this mission, many teachers also incorporated guest speakers along with a number of scheduled live demonstrations.

One guest speaker, who was from Africa, showed students a PowerPoint presentation of their home continent and about their country. Students also attended a karate demonstration in the school’s courtyard and were all taught how to count to 10 in Japanese as well as how to perform some basic martial arts moves.

An Indian dancer also demonstrated her skills in an area of the school gym—there she taught students in the audience how to perform some of the cultural dance moves she was displaying.

“We also had Hispanic dancers in the lunchroom who did a number of Spanish dances for the kids,” Rosado said.

The live demonstrations were only part of the day however, as there was also a portion of the day where students were able to present their research and talk about what they learned regarding the countries and cultures they’d been exposed to.

Teachers were also treated to a catered lunch put together by a number of the mothers of ESL students.

“We had lunch in the conference room that was all catered by our Hispanic mommas,” Rosado said. “They had homemade tacos, pupusas and drinks—everything homemade. It was amazing.”

Parents of the students also helped out in other areas during the day’s presentation, including one student’s father serving as D.J. for the student party in the afternoon. Another parent also constructed balloon backdrops that were used in the school’s photos for the event.

Leading up to Friday’s events, classes were involved in a door decorating contest that included prizes to the multiple winners and thanks to the donations from local nonprofits, a large selection of multicultural books and reading materials were donated to the school. On Friday afternoon, teachers were able to partake in a raffle that saw the books dispersed to a number of the teacher’s classroom libraries.

“It was an all hands-on deck event,” Rosado said. “Everyone pitched in, and we couldn’t have done it without the whole team. Everything came together very well. I am proud of it.”