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Coulston celebrates diversity with cultural fair

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A family gets a taste of Dhokla, an Indian vegetarian food originally from the Indian state of Gujarat.
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Parents join in on the fun, dancing to “Sasha,” a Russian dance. Coulston students gave a demonstration first and later danced to a couple of American songs and toLa Raspa, a Mexican dance.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

Coulston Elementary’s gymnasium was the scene of a celebration of the school’s diversity on Thursday evening.

Students and their parents mingled around, looking at displays around the gym, tasted food samples and watched a 15-minute dance demonstration representing other cultures as well as the United States.

The cultural fair, organized by English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher Kayla Gaddie, was three years in the making, she said.

When she came to Coulston three years ago, she wanted to have a night that celebrated the school’s diversity. Coulston has a “very high” ESL population, she said. So over the course of those years, she spoke with English language teachers in other districts to learn how they produced successful fairs.

She decided to invite families to take part in the event, which she hopes grows in future years and becomes a community event. Families representing Mexico, Japan, Puerto Rico and India participated, with several tables providing food samples or games.

One of her goals was to “connect students and families and have them have conversations about their language and their culture so that that’s something that’s important to them as they try to navigate their multicultural world,” she said.

Around 20 students, along with their families, including some older siblings, participated she said.

About 20 percent of Coulston’s population are English language learners, she said. The percentage of that population has been as much as 25 percent.

Most of those students are Spanish speaking, she said, but because of Ryobi Die Casting, the school also has a transient Japanese population that usually stays 3-5 years. Coulston has also seen an influx of Puerto Rican and Indian families.

“I just really hope they see the importance of their heritage and their culture, and they can not only appreciate the culture they have to assimilate at school but also the culture that they come from, and that’s something they can pass down to their children someday,” Gaddie said.

The celebration featured fourth-grade students performing several dances from Russia, the United States and Mexico. For the Russian dance, to a song called “Sasha,” the parents were invited to join after a demonstration.

“(I’m) just really excited to have it,” Gaddie said. “We can just celebrate the diversity we have at Coulston and they can learn more about other cultures. It’s something we’re proud of and want to celebrate here.”