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All the world onstage

Muir Middle School students get diversity lesson through cultural carnival.

March 31, 2010|By Rima Bek

Burbank students spent a day experiencing the different cultures they have been studying in social sciences and heightening their awareness of diversity.

More than 500 students at John Muir Middle School participated in “Around the World,” Friday’s event promoting cultural awareness.

“We’re trying to give the kids an authentic educational experience,” said Barry Sarna, a social sciences teacher at Muir.

“Around the World” is a seventh-grade event that started almost 10 years ago, Sarna added.

“It’s good to get them out of the classroom and to see something that enhances the lesson . . .  it’s important that they don’t have to sit in the classroom all the time — and this is a good day for that,” Sarna said.

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“Around the World” was a full-day event with performances featuring different cultures.

A morning event included Inca, the Peruvian Ensemble, which has participated in the event for several years and performed music from the Andes.

“Kids need this kind of experience so they understand better our culture,” said Rodrigo Rodriguez, who played the charango.

Another popular group with the students was the Imperial Knights, which performed jousting, sword fights and created competition among students.

With two knights competing in jousting, swordplay and capture the ring (with a lance), students took sides — cheering for their knight and booing the opposing knight.

After the competition, the knights shook hands in friendly accord.

Jousting was the favorite for 12-year-old John Angel. Angel said the best value he learned was about the friendship between the knights.

“Hopefully, they [students] will have a great time, and they’ll remember  . . .that we teach about being noble and chivalrous and leading a drug-free life . . . just being a decent person,” said Richard Rieth, who narrated the show.

Thirteen-year-old Karina Badalyan said the cultural awareness day is “a great opportunity to see other cultures and what they do . . . they should have more of these [events] more often.”

Badalyan said she wanted students to learn “about other cultures and not having second thoughts about them.”

Badalyan cited how one of her friends changed her mind about a particular race after one of the day’s performances.

“At this age, the exposure to a variety of things that are different from what they know — I think it just opens their eyes,” said Heidi Sasaki, a science teacher and coordinator for the event.

“The main goal is to tie in a real experience with the cultures they are studying . . . of course, it has that larger benefit of making them more aware and more sensitive of other cultures.”


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