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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

world holidays From Page 1 who investigates the mystery of Christmas after being whisked away by an imaginary train. Just like the little boy in the movie, the kindergartners, first-graders and teachers dressed in pajamas for the day. Involved in the children’s magical day were kindergarten teachers Marinaro and Lisa Beckfield; first-grade teachers Sandy Barnett, Jennifer Hollis and Elizabeth Mehnmen; instructional coach Trish Zurlinden; and paraprofessional LuAnne Brown. Marinaro said the children learn about how Christmas is celebrated in different places, and the kids respond well to the presentations. Already infused with American Christmas holiday spirit, they’re ready to learn. “It makes them a little more worldly about different people, their backgrounds and how to respect different beliefs,” Marinaro said.

A yearly tradition

The Polar Express is a regular event at the school. “It’s a tradition. I’m not sure how long it’s been going on, but we keep doing this because it feels right,” Marinaro said. Kids could choose three countries to visit, and Marinaro said each year the kids remember the countries they visited the year before. “Next year the (first-graders) will remember what countries they visited (last year) and the ones they still need to go to,” Marinaro said. In keeping with the theme, students’ pretend itineraries looked like train tickets. As students journeyed from classroom to classroom, the “conductor” blew a wooden toy train whistle, and the students hooted chug-chug noises as they made their way to their destinations. At the door, the teacher greeted the students with a click of a hole-punch on their ticket. “How was your trip?” Beckfield asked the travelers. Each classroom was set up as a country, complete with information about the region’s climate, holiday decorations, treats, a presentation about the country and a craft activity. Kindergartner Kaya Wright, 6, had an easy time choosing her three places to visit: Hawaii, Italy and Mexico. “We’re traveling around to countries on a train, but we’re really just walking,” Kaya said. “My first stop is Mexico.” The Mexico unit was taught by Beckfield, who wore festive colors as she greeted the kids. She taught them about poinsettias and to say “Feliz Navidad.” They enjoyed Mexican hot chocolate and Mexican wedding cake. They constructed poinsettias from construction paper and Popsicle sticks, and listened to carols in Spanish.

From left, first-graders Luke Dykema, Dominic Base and Teagan Eisenring check out a boomerang in Trish Zurlinden’s Australia-themed class last Wednesday at Elk Creek Elementary School. Kaya said she learned about giving poinsettias as presents and about the baby Jesus. She said she likes the idea of going to different countries and learning how other kids celebrate the holidays. Students learned about turtle doves in Ireland and Hanukkah in Israel, participated in a “downunder” version of the 12 Days of Christmas in Australia, and made gingerbread ornaments and learned about St. Nicholas in Germany. Kindergartner Max Bogdanoff, 6, said that in the Germany room, kids learn about being good and bad. “You can tell if you’ve been good because when you put your shoes in front of the fireplace, St. Nick will leave twigs if you’re bad and candy if you’re good,” he said. Max expected to receive candy in his shoe. First-grade and Hawaii-room teacher Jennifer Hollis wore her mother’s brightly colored muumuu and said the teachers chose the region they teach about based on their own heritage. She loves teaching kids about Hawaii. Hollis helped kids string paper-flowered leis and shared with them the legend of Santa and his reindeer, Hawaiian style. Each year, Santa arrives in the islands on the backs of dolphins and gives the reindeer a break. “This is one of my favorite days. I get to meet the kids, and the teachers get to work together and bring this special event to the kids,” Hollis said. Marinaro said the school has high expectations of what students should learn, and Polar Express is a way for them to learn in a fun way. “All the learning we do here has a purpose,” Marinaro said.

First-grader Mallory Castonquay, right, makes a lei necklace out of construction paper, tissue paper and yarn in Jennifer Hollis’ Hawaii-themed class.

First-grader Autumn Jones glues paper leaves onto a frame made of popsicle sticks to make a poinsettia in Lisa Beckfield’s Mexico-themed class.

Photographs by Matthew Jonas | Times photo editor

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