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Celebrating cultures with Family Heritage Festival

The group Silk, from the Indian Cultural Center, performed an Indian dance.1 / 2
Various food samplings were available during the Family Heritage Festival including Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Greek and Swedish.2 / 2

Where does your family come from? What culture is your family? Oftentimes the answers to those questions can be lost or forgotten. However, Woodbury Elementary is embracing the different cultures of its students.

Woodbury Elementary held its Family Heritage Festival Friday at the school.

"We want to celebrate the different cultures that are represented here," Woodbury Elementary first grade teacher John Flavin said. "It brings a great discussion to an elementary school."

During the Family Heritage Festival, families could view various cultural artifacts and outfits, sample various ethnic foods -- Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Greek and Swedish meatballs -- and witness some cultural dance performances.

Additionally, elementary students performed Chinese songs and poetry, and African storytelling.

Many of the families in attendance also wore their traditional cultural outfits.

"I think the families like being able to show off their culture and see that their culture is being represented," said Mary Lusher, teacher of English Language Learners. "They don't have a lot of opportunity to wear their traditional outfits so this is a perfect chance."

Embracing the differences

Woodbury Elementary is one of the most culturally diverse schools within District 833, Lusher said.

Woodbury Elementary has students with heritages from most of Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa.

"We just have a real interesting mix of students here," Lusher said. "It's nice to be able to highlight the diversity."

When Woodbury Elementary held its first Family Heritage Festival in 2008, more than 270 families were in attendance.

"They like the gathering together," Flavin said. "They like the energy and the chance to try out new foods."

Flavin and Lusher said the Family Heritage Festival has helped dispel a lot of the stereotypes of differing cultures.

"We're trying to dump those stereotypes at an early age," Flavin said.

Flavin said he hopes to continue to the Family Heritage Festival because it allows students to take pride in their heritage, or even learn about it for the first time.

"A lot of western European heritage people, like myself, we don't really realize that we have a heritage until we see someone else," he said. "It starts that conversations between kids and parents talking about their own heritage."

See the March 9 print edition of the Woodbury Bulletin for additional photos.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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