ROME CITY — The islands of Japan might be about 10,000 miles from Rome City, but on Friday, elementary students got a chance to sample a little Far East Asia culture.
A dragon dance. Sumo wrestling. karaoke. Sushi — with a dot of wasabi for brave youngsters. Art and literature.
Lots of smiles. Lots of fun. Lots of learning.
“Every spring, we start around April, learning about a culture and we spend a few weeks making projects in art class that relate to that culture,” explained Rome City art teacher Jennifer Stohlman.
That study culminates each spring in a culture day at the school, an event now in its 20th year, filled with fun activities that build off those art and classroom lessons in fun ways.
“We can educate our students about the differences but similarities too that many of our cultures have, in hopes of creating tolerance and understanding,” she said.
Japan was this year’s nation of choice, but Rome City students have been all over the world in the last two decades. For a school that is one of Noble County’s more uniquely diverse buildings — Rome City has a large portion of East Noble’s Arabic student population — the lessons in cross-cultural education are something the youngsters can pick up very early in their K-12 careers.
The culture day is underwritten by a grant from the Community Foundation of Noble County, which Stohlman said provides about 80% of the cost for 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 purchased instead of renting and can now use for future school events, carnivals and more, Principal Heather Green said.
Some students got a chance to don the puffy suits and have at one another in the ring, to the cheers and delighted shouts of their classmates. But it’s not just all fun and games, before the bulky brawlers go at it, staff were teaching about sumo wrestling as a sport and the traditions that athletes observe when entering the ring.
Outside, students joined with teachers inside a brightly colored dragon costume, learning about the tradition of the dragon dance, an originally Chinese festivity imported to the Japanese isles and now a part of many festivals there, too.
Elsewhere in the buildings, students sampled some Japanese eats including Pocky chocolate pretzel sticks, dried edamame, California roll sushi bites, lavender ice cream and Calpis, an uncarbonated Japanese beverage.
In the music room, students learned a bit about Japanese karaoke theaters before getting a chance to belt out a few songs themselves with classmates.
“It was awesome to see the entire school learning about the Japanese culture. Rome City Elementary teachers and staff have created a wonderful learning experience for their students,” said Margarita White, program director for the Community Foundation of Noble County after touring Friday’s festivities.