International Day celebrates sixth year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PROCTORVILLE — It started out as a way for foreign language students to earn extra credit. But in six years International Day at Fairland High has metamorphosed into an event that provides multiple purposes for students and the community alike.

It’s a labor of love for language teachers Caroline Lovejoy-Toler and Frances Cade and allows Fairland teens studying language as well as anyone else who wants to participate to explore a particular country.

“It was experimental at first and we were surprised at how successful it was,” Cade, Fairland French teacher, said.

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The event began simply enough when the Fairland administration received a letter detailing National International Education Week. The teachers jumped in and got a handful of students to do a class project.

“We started out with 25 countries that year,” Lovejoy-Toler, Fairland Spanish teacher, said via e-mail. “The students made poster boards, served some food, nothing major. We just wanted to ‘introduce’ the school to a few places they may never have been before.”

This year it became an event that featured displays, food and entertainment from 60 countries from Afghanistan to Ireland to Italy to Monaco to Uganda.

Usually three months before the event — this time in early April — two or three students team up to study in depth a country of their choice.

Their reasons may vary from having family from a particular locale to a place they’d like to visit someday or a venue where they have already vacationed with their family.

“We give them the freedom to choose,” Cade said.

Besides making the assignment in the classroom, Lovejoy-Toler sent out letters to members of the Proctorville area community who are originally from another country.

“They were invited to participate,” Cade said. “Some of them brought food representing their country.”

Students came up with informational boards with photos and interesting facts. They added artifacts from their country like clothing or money.

“That would appeal to all ages, not just a report they would read,” Cade said.

It’s the tangible that attracts other students, especially those in grade school, who check out the fair in the morning.

Activities geared for young minds range from fishing tank games to dancing around the maypole.

Then at night, when the community comes to visit there is entertainment with a buffet of foods from foreign countries.

But in the end, the reason for holding International Day is more than just a display of projects. It’s another way to expand the horizon of young minds showing them there is an international flavor to the world they live in.

“Proctorville is a rather homogenous region and for many students it is their only real-life experience with other cultures,” Lovejoy-Toler said. “I have seen a real difference in the way students think about other cultures since we have started hosting International Day. … As someone who grew up in a very diverse region, I think this exposure is essential particularly to students who will be graduating soon and moving to regions that have a lot more diversity.”