Last Friday morning, many students, as well as a few staff and faculty at Redmond Elementary School, arrived on campus in costume.
But these outfits were not for Halloween. From sports uniforms to traditional ethnic garb, they were dressed up to celebrate the school’s second annual United Nations Day.
As an extension of the school’s Passport Club, United Nations Day is one more way Redmond Elementary is teaching students more about the world around them. The Passport Club is a PTSA-sponsored program designed as an extracurricular activity to supplement the school’s geography curriculum. The program was created in 1994 by a teacher at Centennial Elementary School in Olympia. Since then the program has been used in schools nationwide as well as American schools overseas. The program came to Redmond Elementary about five years ago.
“Our teachers use the Passport Club materials when and if it fits the lesson of the day,” said Janitzia Pizarro, communication vice president for the PTSA and one of the members responsible for bringing the Passport Club to the school. “In the case of UN Day, it is my understanding that some teachers take this opportunity to introduce the concept of diversity, and to explain the role of the United Nations in the world.”
The club is divided into different levels and teaches students about the continents, countries and cities of the world. Beginning at kindergarten, each level is progressively difficult. Students are given a passport and with each level they pass, they earn a sticker, or stamp, for their passport.
“It gives the kids focused instruction on countries and cities of the world,” said Elena Savage, who is the PTSA’s newsletter chair.
Savage said since the program has been at Redmond Elementary, it has been well received. Teachers love it and incorporate relevant lessons into their curriculum and students have fun with earning stickers for their passports, according to Savage.
In addition to dressing up, United Nations Day also included a Passport test for students to earn more stickers.
Pizarro said holding United Nations Day in October was intentional as it coincides with the anniversary of the United Nations Charter, which is Oct. 24. But Pizarro also admits the day was an excuse to dress up.
“The placement at the end of the month, I must admit was chosen with an ulterior motive,” she said. “Obviously, at the time, the idea was sold to our school with no mention of our fondness for some good old dress-up fun.”
Students were encouraged to dress in traditional outfits or wear colors representing their cultures and backgrounds. Countries represented included India, Korea, China, Ireland, Scotland and Russia. The school had a parade around the campus buildings and through classrooms so everyone could see everyone else’s costumes.
Redmond Elementary principal Joyce Teshima said, with a large English Language Learners program and 37 languages and almost as many countries represented, the Passport Club and United Nations Day are especially relevant at their school.
“It’s a very natural integration at our school,” she said.
Teshima, who is in her second year at the school, also dressed up for the occasion. She donned a modernized — and consequently more functional — kimono in honor of her Japanese heritage. She said Redmond Elementary has always been good about accepting others’ differences, and United Nations Day is a great way to celebrate those differences.
“I think it’s important to hold onto what makes you unique and special,” she said.