International Festival

Tonight we had the joy of participating in our homeschool group’s annual International Festival. All the children worked hard to make it a night to remember.

At the beginning of the school year, each participating family chooses a country to study. Some families choose a country they want to learn more about, while other pick something from their normal course of study. The coordinator keeps a list of which country each family has chosen so that there is a good variety.

We were studying Ancient China this year, so we chose that as our focus for the International Festival. We had lots of fun learning about Chinese inventions, making homemade paper, doing calligraphy, visiting the High Museum of Art to see the Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi Huang Di, learning to use chopsticks and studying China’s geography and climate. We displayed the children’s hands-on work as well as the papers they wrote on a large tri-fold board.

Our oldest son wrote a paper on Chinese inventions, our third grader wrote about the Great Wall of China and our first grader wrote about the Terra Cotta Warriors. The children also made a large salt-dough map of China to put on the table in front of our display board.

One of the best parts of the festival is the food! Each family is responsible to bring an item or two of food from their chosen country. We brought fried rice and fortune cookies. We tried so many fabulous dishes tonight.

During the festival, children participate in a scavenger hunt. About a week before International night, families submit two questions (one easy, one difficult) which can be answered from their display board. The coordinator compiles them into two scavenger hunts, one for younger kids and one for older ones. The kids have a great time going around to all the displays, and they learn so much from each one as they hunt for the needed answers.

This game makes sure the kids not only do a good job learning about their own chosen country, but that they also learn something about all the other countries presented. If they finish their scavenger hunt, they can submit their name for door prize drawings. This year’s door prizes were all food items from different countries. Our family won Belgian chocolates, Dutch Stroopwaffel cookies, Korean shrimp-flavored chips and Norwegian ginger cookies.

After the scavenger hunt and feast are over, families can share presentations if they want to. Our oldest son played a Chinese song on the piano, and other children played violin or sang a song in their chosen language.

One family did a Powerpoint presentation on Mexico, sharing lots of photos and teaching some phrases in Spanish along the way. Some children wear costumes and others come as they are. The festival is all about having fun and sharing what we’ve learned with each other.

At the end of the evening, the festival coordinator taught three large group dances. She had appropriate music to go with each dance.

Our children loved the Filipino dance they learned, which was a bit like “the jaws of death”. Two adults slide bamboo poles together and then apart in rhytym to the music. The children needed to try and jump between the poles when they were open and jump out of the poles before they came back together.

You might consider holding an International Festival! It is a great opportunity for kids to display what they have been working on, and a fun way to for them to learn about other countries.

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