Cougar Ridge celebrates cultures and diversity

December 14, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Preschool student Emma Dickinson (right) applies a glop of glue to her asymmetrical Korean fan project as her sister first-grader Jessica works on her own. By Laura Geggel

The golden Chinese lion tossed its head left and right as the drummers carried a beat, heralding in the fourth biennial Festival of Cultures Nov. 19 at Cougar Ridge Elementary School.

Students dressed in clothing representing their heritage demonstrated their talent on stage, showing kung fu demonstrations, performing Bengali dances and doing a Diwali lights dance from India. The fourth- and fifth-grade students drummed on new instruments purchased last spring by the Cougar Ridge PTSA.

About 30 middle school students volunteered at the festival, helping younger students create cultural crafts, like asymmetrical Korean fans.

In the gymnasium, about 300 students visited rows and rows of cultural posters. Almost every elementary student had a passport in hand and answered trivia questions about the 31 countries where their friends’ families once lived.

Third-grader Kelsey McCrone’s family brought a Switzerland poster.

“We’re planning to go there this summer,” to visit family, her mother, Heather McCrone, said.

Kelsey learned a few facts about Switzerland while making the poster with her mother, including that the country has a square flag and the Swiss Christmas gift-giving festivities happen Dec. 6th instead of the 25th.

Third-grade students Sarah Irion and Amanda Lane learned that the world’s driest desert isn’t in Africa, but in Chile. The Atacama Desert, which stretches 40,600 square miles west of the Andes Mountains, is where the famous Chilean miners were trapped for three months in a copper and gold mine.

“We really like how they have the passports,” Lane said, showing all of the facts she had learned by filling it out.

Second-grade student Luca Pungan showed his poster about Romania to his friend Risa Wagner. He asked her to pronounce the Romanian word for thank you, and she got it on the first try: Multumesc.

Yoon Kim, mother of Isaiah Kim, passed out South Korean delicacies to students and parents who stopped by her booth. She said she liked the Festival of Cultures because “Many just know the U.S., but it’s a good opportunity for kids to learn about other countries.”

Parent Eran Nadel, representing his country of Israel, said the fair helped students learn about the people who live in each nation, especially Israel.

“It’s multicultural, with Christians, Muslims and Jewish people,” he said. “It’s a beautiful country.”

Next door, a booth about Iran taught families about Persian culture. Issaquah High School junior Sarah Mirahsani, whose younger sibling attends Cougar Ridge, brought an old poster she had created about her family’s homeland. The project taught her about “the history, about the shah and the revolution, and the ayatollah,” she said.

In the school’s hallway, children played games at a series of booths explaining the culture of disability.

Pacific Cascade Middle School seventh-grader Tim Gordon taught students about the five senses, and challenged them to think about their lives if one didn’t function properly. At one table, students put on glasses smeared with Vaseline and were asked to piece together a puzzle. At another, Gordon told students about decibels, explaining that sounds 80 decibels or higher can be dangerous to their hearing.

This is the first year the disability section has shared information at the Festival of Cultures.

“The cultural fair is about accepting people for their differences, and I thought this was a good fit,” Tim’s mother, Becky Gordon, said.

Students also learned the value of reaching out to other cultures. One table displayed letters and photos from Cajixay, Guatemala, thanking the Cougar Ridge community for donating books to its students last year, especially since its own library was little more than a shelf of books.

Parent Victoria Evans, who co-chaired the festival with Sonali Gujarati and Masuko Narisawa, said the event drew in Cougar Ridge alums and family.

“I think it’s a real community building event for the school,” she said. “It gives a lot of families an opportunity to share their history and culture.”

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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