Family Heritage Festival an Independence Tradition

Family Heritage Festival an Independence Tradition
Posted on 04/03/2019
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Some Independence fourth-graders chose to dress in the same native attire as the dolls they created for their Family Heritage Festival on March 14. A special tradition at Independence Elementary School has family tradition at its core.

For more than 15 years, the school’s Family Heritage Festival has followed a social studies unit on immigration, challenging fourth-graders to explore their own family history. The culmination of the students’ research and creativity is a worldwide culture fair spread across five different classrooms complete with native dress, food and, in some cases, artifacts. Students, staff and even parents moved from station to station on March 14 to soak in what the students had prepared. 

“So many families don’t always know or share their family heritage, so this quickly becomes a project that our families take a vested interest in,” said teacher Anna Piontek. “It gives them an identity to know where they came from.”

Student Brody Goass discovered one of his ancestors was 100 percent Native American. “I thought it was fun because I didn’t know any of that before this project,” he said.

Student Trevor Ernst was excited to have a trip to New York City already planned over spring break. He had plans to visit Ellis Island, where he learned many of his Scottish ancestors passed through.

Teacher Staci Becker, new to the fourth grade Independence team this year, helped introduce some digital elements into this year’s project. In addition to creating a doll that embodies the traditional dress of your family’s native country, students were encouraged to create their country’s brochure digitally. Students also enjoyed some fun with the green screen, digitally placing themselves in an iconic location within their country.

Besides the academic connections the project encourages, Becker noted the social connections it made possible.

“I had students really excited to learn that there were other students in their grade who had ancestors from the same country as them,” Becker said. “ I think making these connections was really good for the kids socially and mentally.”