LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Dressed in everything from Greek togas to Hawaiian hula skirts and French berets, more than 200 preschoolers who attend Primrose School at Lakewood Ranch joined hands in unity Friday afternoon to celebrate and embrace cultures from around the world.
Singing "It's a Small World" before a crowd of happy parents, relatives and school staff, the students, ages 4 and 5, who attend preschool and kindergarten at Primrose School, pranced around their classrooms decorated with flags of different countries and art from around the world representing such iconic world heritage locales as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Parthenon in Athens,
After the festivities, the children and their guests feasted on an array of ethnic foods, ranging from Hawaiian sweet-and-sour meatballs to Greek moussaka and Italian pizza.
Primrose School at Lakewood Ranch, on Town Center Parkway, is part of a national education franchise providing early childhood education and care, with 30 teachers and more than 200. Celebrating Cultures is part of a special "Friendship" education curriculum offered to students each September to mark the beginning of the new school year.
"Children who develop an appreciation of diversity at an early age for other cultures and traditions develop into caring, generous adults who love their community and respect others," said Sharon Frank, owner and operator of the Lakewood Ranch Primrose School, "This unit taught the children that no matter what we look like or what type of clothes we wear, we are all the same. It really is a terrific event." Frank said.
All the costumes and accessories the children wore to celebrate different cultures, such as the hat, paper fans and jewelry, were all created by the students with guidance from teachers.
Preschool teacher Kim Bolyard said she had the pleasure of teaching her 22 students about Greece.
"We talked about what you would see in the Greek culture; We talked about the Olympics and how they originated in Greece, and we made maps and Greek pottery. They called their togas 'wedding dresses' because they're all white," she said, while a packed crowd of parents gathered in her classroom to take pictures of the children and imbibe on some authentic Greek food.
"My daughter knows about sports from each country. She knows about passing the torches at the Olympics. She's articulate and can hold a conversation with an adult, as well as be a little girl running and playing," said Cindy Davis, parent of a 4-year-old preschooler.
"I learned about animals, camels and cactus," said soon-to-be 4 Ella Dyer, a student of Kenia Gonzalez, who said she enjoyed her Hawaiin-themed classroom party.
"What's really nice about our school is that it's extremely diverse. We have children that come from around the world, and some don't speak any English so it's a great experience for everybody," Frank said.
Other thematic events scheduled at Primrose School this year are the Parade of Costumes to celebrate Halloween, along with kindergarten trick-or-treating at the Windsor of Lakewood Ranch, a private senior-living facility across the street from the school.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.