The banging of the drum by eighth-grader Chris Ta and the ringing of the cymbals by seventh-grader Nathaniel Gray echoed through Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School as other students paraded around in lion and dragon costumes.
The dragon dance is a traditional Chinese dance performed at festivities in which a team of dancers moves the dragon figure in a serpent-like motion.
The ceremony Friday was part of an annual event that celebrated International Mother Language Day and the Chinese New Year. The event began in 2005, when the school was established, to promote different cultures.
“There is a lot of parental involvement here, especially with those parents from different cultures around the world, and an event like this exposes the students to different cultures and sheds a light on the importance of culture and prepares them for the world,” said school spokeswoman Janet Chambers.
Young Scholars is a tuition-free, multicultural charter school that fosters a global perspective and promotes world regions, cultures and issues, according to the school.
The daylong event allowed the 280 students from kindergarten to eighth grade the chance to participate in activities such as a fashion show, singing, dancing and acting performances.
Each student in the fashion show wore different attire that highlighted about a dozen countries.
“It’s something they look forward to all year long,” Chambers said. “They learn new cultural traditions. It’s the flagship event of the year.”
Twelve-year-old Danila Berezin wore a traditional red Russian shirt that was handmade by his mother. The seventh-grader was born in a rural community outside of Moscow and moved to the State College area in 2007.
“I’m proud to represent Russia because that’s where me and my family are from,” Danila said. “Events like this today are fun because you get to learn about other cultures, and I’d say it’s the thing in school I look forward to the most.”
Danila also sang a Russian song in front of the students, teachers and parents who were present during the event. Two years ago, Danila also sang a pop song in Hindi.
“It was a very powerful song about a man who lost love and how he became depressed,” Danila said. “Going up there to sing allowed me to conquer my fear in front of the crowd. I’d say I was a lot less nervous this time.”
Planning for the event takes about two months for teachers and other faculty organizers to incorporate performance and school curriculum in the activities, said Chinese language teacher Kuang Chi, also known as Kathy Miller.
“We teach them to be global citizens and teach them to think outside of the box, so they will be ready for the world,” Miller said. “This event is all part of that.”
Performer Dawn Sanford was asked to be a part of the event. She represented a woman from a remote tribe in Venezuela and held a skit with the students to stimulate their brains.
Sanford spoke in the tribe’s language to the students and audience, and they had to guess what she was saying based on body language.
“It gets the kids to think differently,” Chambers said.
The school holds numerous cultural events throughout the year. The next event will be a Turkish night for students and their families.