Youngest Spring Hill students celebrate a diverse world

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The Queen of England carefully poured a cup of tea as she visited Japan last Friday. Meanwhile, visitors from around the world pranced around the queen, all dressed in the tradition of their native countries and all between 2 and 6 years old.

All were participating in Spring Hill School’s International Festival last week.

The festival is held on the school campus each year for its youngest students. It celebrates the school’s global curriculum and diversity education, while giving the students a fun and educational alternative to Halloween.

Instead of dressing up in scary or funny costumes, children attend the festival dressed in the tradition of the people of their families’ countries of origin.

After a colorful parade of seriously concentrating youngsters and a delightful demonstration of authentic Spanish flamenco dancing by a professional dancer, children, parents, grandparents and other visitors toured and tasted their way around the world.

“Geographical and cultural education from the first day are a huge part of our education,” explained Shaharazad Hamidi, Spring Hill’s head of school. “We live in such a global time, it is important that we honor diversity in our education. We want the students to learn to honor their culture.”

While the International Day Festival is designed specifically for the youngest students, Spring Hill’s emphasis on cultural education continues through the elementary and junior high school classes as students progress up to the eighth grade.

The smiles and the excitement of the young participants were an open book to what they experienced, but their parents were equally excited.

“This is an incredible event. It brings the whole school together,” said Megan Cusimano, who has two children — Carter, 4, and Rita, 2 — at the school. “It helps us celebrate our family heritage.”

“Our parents and teachers look forward to it all year,” noted Tricia Garcia, who is not only a teacher at Spring Hill, but also a parent whose 4-year-old daughter, Galia Gongora, joined the other youngsters in enjoying the special event.

Lacey Shelton volunteered at Spring Hill before her daughter began attending. “My daughter wants to be here more than she wants to be with her parents,” she said. “The people her truly love the children. It’s like a family.”

Hamidi said the International Festival is in keeping with the goals of the Montessori school.

“A primary focus is on multicultural and bilingual programs where our children learn various languages and study cultures, celebrating diversity and honoring differences with flexibility, empathy, passion and collaborative leadership,” Hamidi explained.

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