Monday, July 21st, 2014
Since June 9, hundreds of DMPS students have been on a world tour without ever leaving the district thanks to a new summer program that’s made believers out of the pleasantly surprised student-tourists.
Ambassadors from cultures including China, Japan, Bosnia, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Kenya, and Ireland shared their cultural traditions at middle school sites throughout the district. On Friday busloads came from all corners for a culminating event at Hoyt MS that marked the end of a journey co-sponsored by the DMPS 21st Century Community Learning Centers and CultureALL, a Des Moines based-non-profit organization that puts the whole world into Iowans’ hands.
After a smorgasbord of morning workshops that served up Irish jigs, West African drums, Russian dolls, American folksong, Japanese tea, Chinese calligraphy, Filipino tinikling (yeah, that’s what it’s called and that’s how you spell it so get that red line out from under it!) and lots more in classrooms where the usual fare is a nutritious but bland diet of science, math and English, everybody headed to the auditorium for a closing assembly. In the hallway someone asked if anybody was having a great summer and wanted to talk about it. He was immediately swarmed.
One bunch consisting of Maddie, Brandy, Raina, Sophia and Emilie was especially eager to share. Each of them admitted that they had no interest in what their parents had planned for them this summer. They thought they’d been sentenced to six weeks of, yuck, summer school – gross. Until they arrived for the first day. Yes, the word awesome gets more play nowadays than it should. But when it’s used as exuberantly as these Goodrell girls kept using it, it sounds like just the right one. The quintet of pals, not all of whom even knew each other before this summer, was unanimously happy to give parents their props for making them take part.
When she walked by they singled out Zeljka Krvavica, one of the CultureALL ambassadors and a native of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina who fled her war-torn homeland in 1993, for giving them a taste of Bosnian coffee and pancakes. In return she, like all of her counterpart ambassadors from across the globe, told the assembled kids in the auditorium that she’d thoroughly enjoyed spending the summer with them. Really, it was hard to tell who had more fun, the tourists or their guides.
According to 21CCLC District Grant Coordinator Heidi Brown, this was year one of a five-year grant that funded expansion of the 21CCLC programming from the elementary to the middle school level here. “It’s really gone well and it’s kind of sad to see it ending today,” she said.
Corey Harris, the district’s Director of Middle Schools, addressed the assembly and offered the kids kudos for spending their summertime so wisely and constructively. “My hat’s off to you,” he said. “The choice you made will pay dividends in your futures.”
Even if they had no choice this first time around.
But Maddie, Brandy, Raina, Sophia and Emilie will be back next summer. If word of mouth still counts for anything in middle school circles, and it does, don’t be surprised if there are more where they came from.
Memo to Zeljka: Better put on another pot of coffee…