ROME CITY — The islands of Japan may be around 10,000 miles from the city of Rome, but on Friday elementary school students got a chance to sample a bit of Far Eastern culture.
A dragon dance. sumo. Karaoke. Sushi — with a hint of wasabi for the brave youngsters. Art and Literature.
Lots of smiles. Lots of fun. Lots of learning.
“Every spring, we start around April to learn about a culture and spend a few weeks doing art-in-progress projects related to that culture,” said Jennifer Stohlman, an art teacher at the City of Rome.
This study culminates each spring with a school cultural day, an event now in its 20th year, filled with fun activities that build on these art and classroom lessons in a fun way.
“We can educate our students about the differences but also about the similarities that many of our cultures have, in hopes of creating tolerance and understanding,” she said.
Japan was the nation of choice this year, but students from the city of Rome have been all over the world for the past two decades. For a school that is one of the most diverse buildings in Noble County – the city of Rome has much of East Noble’s Arab student population – cross-cultural education lessons are something young people can learn very early in their K-12 career.
Culture Day is funded by a grant from the Community Foundation of Noble County, which Stohlman says provides about 80% of the cost of the program each year. That money — $2,900 this year — helps cover the cost of consumables like food, art supplies, decorations and equipment.
Among some of the items purchased this year were padded sumo wrestling suits and mats, which the school bought instead of renting and can now use for future school events, carnivals and more, the school said. Principal Heather Green.
Some students had the chance to don the inflated costumes and face off in the ring, to cheers and delighted shouts from their classmates. But it’s not all fun and games, before the bulky brawlers got into it, the staff taught sumo wrestling as a sport and the traditions athletes observe when they enter the ring.
Outside, students joined teachers in brightly colored dragon costumes, learning about the tradition of the dragon dance, a celebration originally brought from China to the Japanese islands and now part of many festivals there too.
Elsewhere in the buildings, students sampled Japanese dishes including Pocky Chocolate Pretzel Sticks, Dried Edamame, California Rolled Sushi Bites, Lavender Ice Cream and Calpis, a non-carbonated Japanese drink. .
In the music room, the students learned a bit about Japanese karaoke theaters before having the chance to sing a few songs themselves with their classmates.
“It was great to see the whole school experience Japanese culture. The teachers and staff at City of Rome Elementary School created a wonderful learning experience for their students,” said Margarita White, Principal from the Community Foundation of Noble County program after visiting the Friday festivities.