Wisconsin Middle School Students Experience World Cultures at UW-Madison

Learning Finnish with Mirva Johnson (photo by Maria Vishnevsky)

Three hundred Wisconsin fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, along with almost twenty teachers, gathered at Union South on the UW-Madison campus the morning of Wednesday, November 20th. The occasion was an annual mini conference, European Studies co-sponsored called “World Appreciation Day.”

Raizes do Brasil, Capoeira (photo by Sarah Linkert)

The event kicked off with a vibrant and interactive performance by Raizes do Brasil, a local Capoeira group. This was followed by break-out sessions during which some students learned a Turkish goat dance; some heard a Kenya ogre story; others learned about the heritage and traditions of Southeast Asia’s Hakka people; and still others learned about the South Asian henna tradition. After the breakout sessions, students participated in a series of intensive, mini language lessons.  Each student at World Appreciation Day got a ten-minute lesson in four different languages.  Half of students learned Finnish, Yucatec Maya, Turkish, and Korean.  The other half learned Swahili, Pashto, Polish, and Hmong.

After a snack and some down time, there was a second round of break-out sessions.  This session offered lessons in: “How to Speak British”; Bhangra (a South Asian dance form); the Thai Circle Dance; Russian Cartoons; and traditional Somali dance.

Csanad Siklos Teaches how to Speak British (Photo by Maria Vishnevsky)

Teachers had enthusiastic praise for World Appreciation Day, saying:

“Thanks again for your work helping to open up the world to our young students!”

“Thank you so much! The kids really enjoyed learning about all these new places!”

World Appreciation Day offers teachers and students the chance to experience some of the richness of the world’s cultures in a hands- (and feet-) on manner.  The goal of World Appreciation Day is for participants to return home with a greater appreciation for the incredible diversity of cultures across the globe.

World Appreciation Day was founded in 2014. It is held every November during International Education Week.

Nalan Erbil teaches students to do a Turkish goat dance (photo by Sarah Linkert)