Get cultured

Ainsley Freeman, Staff Writer

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Dancers twirl in brightly colored outfits to mesmerizing music. The flashes of color and the sudden movements catch the eye, hypnotizing the crowd. Few people in the audience have seen this dance before.

Culture Day began in 2016 as an immersive showcase where students were given the chance to learn about cultures from around the world and issues faced by minority groups. Students sign up through the FIT Portal for different sessions ranging from lectures to dance performances and demonstrations. Principal Stacia Crescenzi said that Culture Day is a good time to learn about traditions in ways students like, giving them the opportunity to choose what they want to learn about.

“Occasionally, an elective class will have a broader availability to really look at any nuance of a culture,” Crescenzi said. “But not everybody can take those classes, and that doesn’t mean that everybody shouldn’t…want to have more information about something.”

According to Crescenzi, the ability for students to choose what they learn about during Culture Day is an aspect that makes it special. It gives students the opportunity to choose what they want learn about instead of the curriculum they are forced to do. Junior and Diversity Council member Sofia Odom appreciates the interactive sessions of Culture Day.

“There’s a lot of in-depth arts-and-crafts stuff and it’s always something I look forward to every year,” Odom said. “Last year we did Henna [tattoos], and it was really cool.”

Culture Day not only provide opportunities for students to learn but Ellen Owens, teacher and Diversity Council sponsor, said it also encourages leadership because the event is organized by students on Diversity Council.

“From a teacher’s perspective, I like that the students in Diversity Council do the majority of the organization and session creation, which makes it an event for students by students,” Owens said. “Students get to learn through exposure, which to me is the best way to learn about other people.”

According to Crescenzi, Culture Day is not just learning about culture, but understanding why students should learn about culture.

“I think students [benefit from] recognizing that the definition of culture, while it includes things like race, is much broader,” Crescenzi said. “I think just understanding that about people is a good thing. And then I think that any time people can come together and learn more about each other, whether it’s in a simple way, like I said food or performance, or whether that’s really digging into their own biases, I think that’s all healthy and that’s what I hope students feel like they can do the rest of their lives.”

Culture Day is designed to challenge students’ preconceived notions of culture and traditions different from their own. Crescenzi hopes that students will leave culture day with different perspectives and having been interested in what they learned about.

“I hope that students look at themselves and ask themselves not only ‘what am I interested in?’ but ‘what might challenge me?’” Crescenzi said. “I hope they really pick at least one opportunity that would challenge their own biases or their own beliefs about a particular group so that they can leave feeling like they have experienced some cognitive dissidence. I would love to see that happen for everybody.”