INDIAN TRAIL – Students at Porter Ridge Elementary recently got a chance to travel to places like Egypt, Italy, Ireland and Australia – without even leaving school.
The school held a three-day international fair where students got to “visit” a handful of countries on six different continents. They learned about the traditions and customs of other nations, and some even got to serve as tour guides, leading peers and parents on the journey, as well.
Principal Lisa Taylor said this year is the first time the school has held an international fair. In conjunction with Union County Public Schools’ goal of giving students a global education, each class at Porter Ridge has “adopted” a country they’ll study for the entire school year.
Throughout the year, the school hosts events, such as the Peace Parade in September, where the students can represent their adopted nation. Taylor said she and other faculty members wanted to host another special event to give students a chance to apply what they’ve learned about the countries and share that knowledge with others.
“We wanted to do something beyond the classroom so others could see what (the students) have done,” Taylor said. “This gave students a chance to look at some of the things they made and facts they’ve found and … present it to others.”
During the fair, students were stationed at booths outside of their classrooms. They took turns manning the booth and sharing information about their countries as other students traveled by. The booths featured artifacts and fabric from the countries, sample food (for a visual example only), a science board displaying maps and fun facts about the countries and more.
“It really was quite a nice display,” Taylor said.
The first two days of the fair took place Dec. 5 and 6. On the first day, third- through fifth-graders got to venture around the school and see the presentations from students in kindergarten through second grade. Then, on the following day, the roles reversed and older students got to give their own presentations to the younger students.
Then on the evening of Dec. 13, students returned to their booths for the third and final international fair event. Held in conjunction with the first grade musical presentation, “A Very Merry Christmas,” this third part gave parents a chance to be the voyagers and “travel” to the different countries as their children served as tour guides.
“The parents loved it. A lot of them were taking pictures of (the students) and the presentations and telling them they didn’t know that about that country,” Taylor said. “The kids were very good at what they did. They seemed to be very knowledgeable about their country and they were excited to be learning things about other countries.”
In addition to the international fair, one classroom started their own global project: reaching out to kids across the world through Operation Christmas Child. Michele Turner’s fourth-grade class filled 47 shoeboxes with toys and other essential items that will be distributed to children in impoverished countries through the Samaritan’s Purse program.
Taylor said the project helped keep the kids grounded in the midst of all the pre-Christmas jitters.
“They get so excited about Christmas, but this sort of helped keep them motivated to keep learning up until Christmas break,” she said.
For Taylor, there are so many positive things about holding events like the international fair. But the best part of all, she said, is seeing the children’s faces light up as they learn new things and help teach their peers.
“I think the children’s engagement was exciting to see,” she said. “I could name a lot about how the parents came in, how it brought the community together, how everyone was learning things. All of that is wonderful, but the kids were so proud of what they did, and I think that’s the best thing I got out of it.”