Sunnyvale School District welcomes students from several dozen countries around the world, speaking over 45 different languages, at the district’s two middle schools and eight elementary schools. While this diversity is embraced in all our schools, a few schools set aside extra time and energy and explicitly celebrate their diverse communities.
Cherry Chase and Cumberland host International Nights every Spring while every student at San Miguel participates in the school’s annual Multi-cultural Dance Festival.
At Cumberland PTA’s April 25 event, parents (ambassadors) representing over 30 countries showed off information on their countries’ stations (normally spread out on the black top, this year’s wild rain and wind on April 25 got the chairpersons to move the event into the Multi-purpose room and other covered areas on campus). Each station displayed information about the country and the children (travelers/tourists) received passports with questions like “How many letters are in the Swedish alphabet?”, “What is the top export of Iceland?”. These young globe trotters went around to each country’s station, gathering information from the ambassadors and answering the question for the country. Ambassadors stamped passports and the young travelers received a prize for earning a certain number of stamps. There were food samples at each country’s station; most were home-cooked specialties. Multi-cultural entertainment included martial arts demonstrations, Indian dance, Korean dance, and performances from students who attend after-school Mandarin and Spanish classes. Three food trucks were there to provide dinner and to support the PTA through donation from sales for the evening.
Cherry Chase’s PTA celebrated International Night on May 30 this year. The current outdoor format has been around since 2011. Previously, Cherry Chase PTA hosted a smaller international night, where families brought a potluck item to share and children performed on stage in the multi-purpose room. When no one stepped up to chair the event in 2011, Puja Sampat, event chair for the past four years, stepped in to not just save it, but revamp it into a more exciting format, which had served as the model for Cumberland’s event.
Cherry Chase’s event was set up to resemble a global bazaar with tents or booths from many countries, featuring displays, arts and crafts, activities, and food. People came out to share their cultures, and learn about new ones in a hands-on interactive fashion. Music, dance, and food offered participants the opportunity to take a virtual trip around the world. Volunteers (parents and community members) served as ambassadors hosting booths for over 24 countries this year: Azerbaijan, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Colombia, China, England, France (after-school French program), Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, The Philippines, Norway, Romania, Scotland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Sweden and the USA. Performances representing the USA (school band), France, Australia, Korea (drumming troupe), Mexico (folk dancing) and Africa (African Drumming and dancing group) provided entertainment as visitors strolled around visiting booths, children going around with their “passports” for a scavenger hunt of fun facts from each nation’s booth, and everyone enjoying samples of food from around the world. In keeping with the potluck tradition, the array of delicious and often home-cooked food still took center stage.
The most special addition to the Cherry Chase International Night this year was a visit from Setsuko Takemoto. She is the great grandmother of two 3rd grade students at Cherry Chase, twins Yumeko and Kimeko. Their mother, Seiko, shared that her grandmother had timed her trip to the US so that she could be a part of Cherry Chase’s International Night and made sushi at the Japan booth, for everyone to sample and enjoy.
Chairpersons for these events at both Cumberland and Cherry Chase were grateful for their armies of volunteers who gave generously of their time and hard work, before, during, and after these events for their entire school community to share and enjoy.
San Miguel celebrates its cultural diversity with dance performances at school! This year’s Annual Multicultural Dance Festival was held on May 30, at 8:30AM. According to one of the teacher organizers, Cheri Melville, San Miguel has held the dance festival for at least 12 years. San Miguel teachers taught the dances to their students. Each grade performed a different dance. Parents helped with the simple costumes. The colors of the costumes matched the colors of the flag of the country from where the dance came. Some costumes were made in class as art projects while others had been passed down over the years. Sometimes custom-made t-shirts were designed for the occasion. This year, grades 4 and 5 and grades 3-5 SDC students wore red, green, yellow, and blue t-shirts to reflect the South African flag as they danced Waka Waka, representing US and South Africa. Kindergarteners performed The Chicken Dance (Switzerland), grade 1 and K- grade 2 SDC class danced the Merengue (The Dominican Republic), grade 2 students did the La Bamba (Mexico) and grade 3 danced Aloha Week Hula (Hawaii, US). Hundreds of parents and younger siblings were in attendance, cheering the young dances and enjoying the performance.
All the students at San Miguel looked forward to this festival every year. Around April, teachers could hear students whispering to each other what dance they thought they would learn. They started to wonder what song they would be dancing to, and if they would learn a new dance. They also wondered if the teachers would surprise them with a teacher dance! The dancers typically practiced for one to two months leading up to the performance. They practiced two times a week, starting in the classroom with just their classmates, then in the last two weeks, they moved outside for their practice and joined the other students who would be performing with them. At the performance, a few students from each grade level announced the dances and gave a short introduction. San Miguel teachers did surprise everyone this year with a teacher dance, choreographed to the American Autos song, “Best Day of My Life.” In addition, boys and girls of all grades who attended the after-school program, KLAS, performed a hip hop dance at the festival.
Teachers at San Miguel have plans to grow the festival in the coming years to encompass more lessons, incorporating reading, music, art projects, and more dances from other cultures.
Contributors: Puja Sampat, International Night co-chair at Cherry Chase, Cheri Melville, teacher at San Miguel, Nina Wong-Dobkin