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Lanigan Students Learn About Cultural Differences

First grade students at Lanigan Elementary School recently packed their bags and took a trip around the world to discover the similarities and difference of specific cultures. Well, sort of.

From left are: first graders Grace Cowart, Owen Tice and Hailey Smith meet with exchange student Gabriele Malossi of Italy.
From left are: first graders Grace Cowart, Owen Tice and Hailey Smith meet with exchange student Gabriele Malossi of Italy.

The school hosted international students from Germany, Vietnam, Italy and Kyrgyzstan as part of the Greenheart of Cultural Exchange, a locally-run organization promoting cultural understanding, academic development, environmental consciousness and world peace.

Lanigan first graders rotated to different classrooms to learn about each country and culture. The event proved to be an educational experience for both the American and international students, as they discussed many of the similarities and differences between their counties.

First grade teacher Marie Mathes said she was astonished by how much her students learned by simply talking to students from other areas of the world.

“It was amazing to have students from other countries teach the first graders about their culture,” Mathes said. “We are constantly teaching map skills. Finding and locating each of these countries and comparing to where we live are great learning opportunities.”

Throughout the day, Lanigan students learned how to use chop sticks and how to say the alphabet in Italian, ate a dessert of German origins and discovered what children from Kyrgyzstan like to do for fun.

Several foreign exchange students recently visited first graders at Lanigan Elementary School to discuss the differences in cultures.
Several foreign exchange students recently visited first graders at Lanigan Elementary School to discuss the differences in cultures.

Lanigan students also posed many questions to the international students, including a bevy of Christmas-related inquires.

The greatest cultural shock of the event came when students learned that many people from Vietnam do not celebrate Christmas and have never even seen snow.

The visit from the foreign exchange students came as a culmination of Lanigan students studying a particular culture and comparing and contrasting that culture from their own.

Students also researched how each culture housed or sheltered itself and made projects depicting those shelters.

“Students presented their research and projects to the class and the projects were displayed for the school to see. This was a great family project and I heard great things from the parents,” Mathes said.