Hundreds of youngsters will have the opportunity to dress in costumes, taste new foods and expand their cultural horizons and levels of tolerance through the Arnn Elementary School Multicultural Festival this week at Sagamihara Housing Area near Camp Zama, Japan.

“It’s to celebrate the diversity that is in our school and to learn about tolerance,” said second-grade teacher Andrea Weigle, one of the event organizers.

Each day, students will take part in events designed to highlight culture and cultural diversity, to show how people from different cultures contribute to the community and to show the common and unique qualities of global communities — the standards the school followed in crafting the events, Weigle said.

“Because, really, in the military, we live in a global community,” she said.

The event isn’t new; Arnn has held one for about 15 years. Many students recall and look forward to the events, Weigle said.

“The kids are really excited,” she said. “They remember all the fun they had getting to participate in all of these things that aren’t part of a usual school day.”

Among highlights: visits from outside school and civic groups, a parade, food tastings and special classroom programs.

Second-graders, for example, will take a break from the regular school curriculum to learn about folktales from around the world. They’ll turn the tales into little flipbooks they then can take home to show their parents. Parents are encouraged to take part in all the events, Weigle added.

At a special assembly at 1:30 p.m. Monday, students from Sagamidai Elementary School near the base will perform Taiko drumming. Base groups including the Hawaiian Club and PhilAm Club also will perform.

Tuesday, Japanese mochi pounders will visit the school to demonstrate the technique of pounding rice into sticky mochi, used in soups and sweets.

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, students will dress up in costumes from different countries and parade around the school grounds.

Thursday, the school will feature a Taste of Nations Food Sampling after 1 p.m., including dishes from Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

And on Friday, students will present cultural displays for their peers. Weigle’s students, preparing a display on Greece, will learn to paint their initials in the Greek alphabet.

Weigle said the excitement of the events helps quietly reinforce the goal: to promote tolerance, appreciation for diversity and respect for others.

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