Originally created 10/24/98

Pupils discover cultures



Fourth-graders at Westminster Day School got a taste Friday of several different cultures.

Pupils researched their ancestry, dressed in native attire and brought in cultural foods as part of the school's yearly Culture Day.

The pupils, with help from their parents, researched their family background and shared their findings with classmates.

Charlie Houston dressed as St. Patrick to show off his Irish background. His outfit resembled one that the pope would wear.

Marie Velez dressed casually in a T-shirt and jeans and brought in mangoes to represent her Puerto Rican background.

The pupils also tasted Dutch rusk -- which resembles pieces of perfectly browned toast -- beef brisket from Ireland and Bratwurst from Germany.

Family photos and other ancestral memorabilia were shown off.

Bob Wipf, grandfather of pupil Laura Kitchen, talked to the class about growing up in Germany.

"We didn't have electricity or running water," he said. "But don't feel sorry for me. It was the way we lived."

Mr. Wipf shared sourdough bread with the class and told the pupils how much better his life was when his family moved to America.

Alex Merrill, representing Syria, dressed in a blue-and-white outfit similar to what someone in the desert would wear.

"I learned a lot about myself," Alex said. "I learned about food, language and famous people from there like King David and King Solomon."

Alex said Culture Day is one of his favorite events.

"I like Culture Day because you get to share your costumes with everyone and you get to show everyone how special your country is," he said.

The pupils study immigration in social studies, said Peggy Roberts, director of admissions.

"When they study social studies they learn how different people came here to make up America," Mrs. Roberts said. "It's interesting for them to see where their ancestors originated. So many of them had no idea their family came from other countries. This gives them a sense of pride about their ancestry."

Sarah Smith dressed as an English maid and served her classmates cinnamon-apple tea from a silver teapot.

"They don't think tea is proper until you have a proper tea cup," Sarah said, showing off a porcelain cup and saucer.

"I chose this outfit because they are very formal and proper," she said. "They speak English, like us, but it's a little different.

For instance, Sarah pointed out, a person from England would say they want to get on the "lift," while we would say we would like to get on the elevator.

"If they want a cookie, they would say, `I'm going to get a biscuit,"' she said.

Sarah gained information about her ancestry after doing some research.

"We had to fill out a sheet about our ancestors, and one of my mother's ancestors came from England," she said. "This is fun because we get to learn about different cultures, hear the language and taste the foods."

Philip Mullins explained life as an Irish farmer.

He wore an "Aram Gansey" -- a sweater made of sheep wool -- and carried a "black thorn stick," which he says was first used to hit people during a war but was later used as a walking cane.

He brought in "birds custard," which looked like the inside of an apple pie.

Philip said his favorite part of Culture Day was eating the food.

"The children get so excited about Culture Day," Mrs. Roberts said. "This is the first time some of them are finding out about their culture."

Faith Johnson covers education for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3765 or faithj@augustachronicle.com.