One world: Lawton event celebrates all six

Lawton Elementary held their third annual World Cultures Night last Thursday. As in past years, the theme at the March 1 event revolved around one continent, with each grade focusing on a country within that continent.

The idea is that over a six-year period, students will have studied all six (some say seven) continents, focusing more specifically on certain countries.

This year staff, parents and students put in hundreds of hours of work to transform the school into the continent of Europe.

When visitors arrived they picked up a passport and headed through the Eurotrain-in this case a massive train made out of cardboard, paper and paints, all made complete by train-like sound effects.

I was ushered downstairs to Spain by first-grader Tyler Stanley, who was dressed in traditional Spanish attire. Upon arrival, I noticed kids throwing tomatoes at a large picture, as a sort of game; tomato fights, it turns out, are a large part of Spanish culture.

There were works of Picasso-like art created by students on display and also an array of Spanish food to taste.

Tyler said the most interesting thing he learned from their study of Spain was "how long dancing has been around. It has been around for 600 years."

Greece was the next stop, where eager second-grade students pointed out how they learned to spell their names in Greek; and they offered me some Greek snacks-pitas and dip.

Next door was England, created in facsimile by another second-grade class. There were British guards at the entrance in proper attire and standing perfectly still and quiet-that is, until some of their peers came up and poked their noses and made silly faces at them.

Inside was a large model of Big Ben as well as other monuments. Half a dozen second-grade girls put on an act of a Shakespearean play while the audience munched on fries wrapped in newspaper.

I walked by the Netherlands, sampling some goat cheese on crackers, and then I viewed the wall that protected the tulips from being flooded by the sea. As I admired Russian and Swiss artwork (created, of course, by Lawton students), visitors picked up Italian sodas from nearby Italy and kids put together noodle necklaces.

In Ireland, a kindergarten student happily served me some Irish stew and soda bread. I also found stew in Scotland, along with some Scottish cakes covered with jam or honey.

The fourth-grade students all wore plaid, and visitors learned about famous Scottish inventors and important people including Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie and John Muir.

Nearby was France, with dimmed lights, a model of the Eiffel Tower and French music playing softly in the background. Visitors first walked through the catacombs, dark and cave-like with model skulls and bones on either side.

Once through the catacombs, one could wait in line for a sampling of some French treats-truffles, éclairs and "champagne" (sparkling juice).

While enjoying a recorder performance by the fifth graders (wearing berets and drawn-on mustaches), visitors viewed renditions of Impressionist art.

Something Camille Pierson and Hannah Tyler learned was that, contrary to what many believe in the United States, "French people aren't rude. That's just a stereotype."

Fourth- and fifth-graders proudly served food in Portugal and showed off their posters. I left Portugal through the drawbridge and headed to Sweden.

Third-graders wore flowered wreathes on their heads and greeted visitors with "Welcome to Sweden!" in Swedish. The students wrote their names in hieroglyphs on a model rune stone and made impressive rock trolls.

Students studying Norway also exhibited fine creations of Norwegian homes.

I grabbed some Icelandic cuisine as I headed to the cafeteria, where a group of adults and children called Ensian Schuhtlattler were performing an Austrian dance while dressed in traditional costume.

The fourth-graders then sang some Scottish tunes, accompanied by a bagpiper. An outside group, the Highlands Dance Group, which included two students from Lawton, demonstrated Highland dances.

The first-graders followed with a Spanish flamenco dance, and the 4th/5th-graders from Portugal performed the Malhão, a traditional Portuguese dance. The final dance of the night was a traditional Greek dance, performed by Spartiates.

There's no doubt: World Cultures night is a learning experience, not only for the staff and students but for everyone who visits as well. The school is amazingly transformed; the decorations are realistic, a testament to the amount of work that went into their creation. The food is quite authentic and genuinely gives a small taste of each culture.

Most of the night it was hard to move around for the people, showing just how big a hit this World Cultures event has become. It's likely this night will continue to be a hit in the future.

Freelance schools reporter Ashley Marshall can be reached at

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