Roosevelt School sixth grade teacher Jill Barbarise wanted to do something different as part of the class' social studies curriculum this year. So she decided to assign a European country to each student and told the student to research the country, so much so that the student would have to learn five vocabulary words in the country's native language, as well as learning a favorite dish of the country.
The result was the presentation of Ethnic Day on Oct. 13, where approximately half of the students' parents attended and were treated to the respective dishes, while being treated to the food, prepared by the students themselves.
"The students made gyros from Greece, Irish soda bread, pancakes from Holland, pierogies from Poland, shortbread from England and of course, a traditional favorite, spaghetti," Barbarise said last week. "The students all made it themselves and everyone left here stuffed."
But it was more than just a European feast for 24 students and their parents. It was all part of an extensive project, which took a lot of work.
"Each student was assigned a country and they had to do a lot of research and writing," Barbarise said. "They did a lot of reading on current events. They even visited travel agencies to get brochures on their countries. And they had to dress wearing the clothing that people in their respective countries wear."
Part of the research also included comparing life in the European country with life in the United States. The students were also required to recreate flags and maps of their assigned countries.
Also, as part of the project, the students were required to give an oral presentation on their respective country. "I was very impressed with the way they were able to get up in front of the class and their parents and speak," Barbarise said. "I thought it all went well."
Barbarise has organized similar events in the past with her students, like an International Festival a few years ago, so she was well-prepared.
Roosevelt School Principal Anthony LaBruno was pleased with the performances of both the students and Barbarise.
"Because we all live in a big melting pot here, this is something that the students have to live every day," LaBruno said. "You learn something special about a different country and you find out that there may be a family member from there, or perhaps another member of the class. And what makes it special is that they are able to sample the foods of the other countries. It really is amazing and it makes for a very good writing project, which is something we stress."
Barbarise said that her students had fun while learning - which has to be essential when teaching in today's society.
"I know it was a lot of work for the students, but they did enjoy themselves," Barbarise said. "And the parents told me that they were impressed as well."
Now, if only the parents can get the sixth graders to cook dinner at home on a regular basis. Then, it would be even more impressive.