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April 21, 2010 Host an International Festival at Your School! By Beth Newingham
Grades 3–5

    As I look at my students each year, I see such a variety of faces looking back at me.  This is because Troy, the city in which my school is located, is the second most ethnically diverse city in the state of Michigan.  I feel very proud to be a Troy teacher, and I believe that it is so important to celebrate the diversity that exists in my classroom and at my school.  Teaching my students to embrace their diversity helps create an atmosphere of respect and appreciation in my classroom.  One way that the other third grade teachers and I do this at our school is by hosting an International Festival each year.  During this time students research the countries of their ancestors and present their research at an International Festival to celebrate their different cultures through authentic costumes, patriotic music, and international cuisine.


    READ ON to learn more about the research conducted by the students, the International Festival music performance, the exciting fashion show, and the International Taste-Fest.  A VIDEO also accompanies this post!  



    Watch the International Festival Highlight Video



    Conducting the Research

    Before the research begins, students (with the help of their parents) determine the countries their ancestors lived in before coming to America.  They then choose one of those countries to study as we begin research/report units of study in reading and writing workshops for about a month.

    Research books

    The geography of the students’ countries, along with their countries’ popular cuisine, holidays, festivals, clothing, system of education, sports, and language are all studied as students use reference books and teacher-selected Web sites to gain information that is ultimately used to create a final report/book. Students spend lots of time in class using library books and Internet resources to collect information on the countries of their ancestors.

    Research ann

    They first take notes on index cards, each card representing a different topic of research (clothing, food, education, housing, holidays and festivals, popular sports, governments, etc.). They then write rough drafts before finally turning their research into a final report. The final research books are displayed for parents and all other guests at the International Festival to enjoy.

    Research 1  Research cards






    The International Festival Music Performance & Fashion Show

    When we have concluded the research/report unit in our classroom, students take part in an evening performance where parents are able to watch the students sing songs and show off their costumes on our makeshift runway.


     On the night of the International Festival, we decorate the stage in our cafeteria with flags of the world and other decorations that celebrate the many cultures of the world including a huge Chinese dragon made with balloons, a light-up Eiffel tower constructed by a parent, and other things we can collect or make. We work with the music teacher in the school to sing songs that celebrate our diversity.


    In between the singing, we call students’ names from each country and have them “strut their stuff” on a catwalk that we construct off the front of the stage. While students from each country are showing off their great costumes, we play music from their country. After they have their turn on the catwalk, students go to the microphone and share an interesting fact about their country before returning to their place on the risers.


    Speaker Speaker1 

    This festival does require some effort on the part of the parents.  Parents are asked to help their children put together a costume that reflects the country they are studying. (Of course there are always students whose parents are not able to help, so we teachers assist those students in finding a costume of some sort to wear.)  The costumes are worn during the night of the International Festival and for a morning performance we put on for the school.


    Costumes1 Costumes2




    International Taste-Fest

    After the performance on the stage, students and their parents head to our gymnasium where they serve a food that represents the cuisine from their country.


    Every country has favorite foods that are eaten by its citizens and some specific foods that are eaten only on special occasions. Students (with the help of their parents) are asked to make a favorite food from their country that will be served at the “taste-fest.” We provide parents with Web sites that have international recipes if they do not have any of their own. When deciding how much food to prepare, we remind parents that it is just a “taste-fest.” We ask that food be served in small sample portions for approximately 50–60 people.


    Taste1 Taste4

    All recipes are collected and are used to create an international cookbook. All families receive a copy of the cookbook so that they can make any of the delicious foods that they enjoyed at the taste-fest.

    Cookbook1  Cookbook2

    We also create passports for all visitors.  The passports list the names of the countries being represented at our festival. As students and parents try foods from the many different countries, they can check off those countries on their passports. This encourages students to try as many different types of food as they can.



    Download Passport (Print Shop File)




    Great Resource for Studying the Countries of the World

    Here is a great resource available in the Scholastic Teacher Store that you can use to help your students research countries of the world and celebrate their diversity.  Click on the book to learn more about its contents.

    International Children 

    Search the Scholastic Teacher Store for more great books for conducting country research in your classroom.



    How Do You Celebrate Diversity in Your School?

    I'd love to hear some ideas about the ways you help your students celebrate diversity in your own classroom and at your school.  Please share your ideas in the comment section of this blog!


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