LAYTON -- Using song and dance, teachers at E.G. King Elementary School hoped to give sixth-grade students a better understanding of the diverse cultures that span the globe.
In culmination of their yearlong study of countries, 90 students performed a blend of song and dance for their families recently at Central Davis Junior High School.The students performed a dozen musical numbers representing the countries and cultures that they have studied.
Students performed dances from several countries, including Romania, Vietnam, Australia, New Guinea, Nigeria, Israel, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Mexico.
One dance the students demonstrated was the tinikling dance, which originated in the Philippines. Two students knelt on the ground opposite each other while holding two poles between them. The poles were rhythmically clapped together and to the ground as two other students methodically danced over and in between the moving poles.
Students explained that the dance tells the story of a long-legged tinikling bird that would run through the weeds and rice paddies. The natives would try to catch the bird by hitting its legs with long poles. The dancers represented the birds as they tried not to get caught.
Teachers hoped that by giving their students firsthand experiences through the songs and dances to expose them to cultures from around the world, they would learn more tolerance and acceptance of people of different nationalities.
In October, each student selected a country to study. During the next six months, each student became an expert on his or her chosen country and prepared a 30- to 40-page typed report.
"They were required to complete a research paper on the country they adopted. They researched the history, government, culture, arts, music and holidays," said Joni Scoffield, a sixth-grade teacher.
Scoffield said each completed project was bound into a book for the student.
Many students chose to study a country where their family has ancestral ties.
Quincy Toomalatai, 12, said he studied Samoa because his father is from the islands.
He and his cousins performed both a Samoan slap dance and a haka dance, which Quincy said originated in New Zealand.
His classmates looked on as the mild-mannered sixth-grader became a boisterous and confident young man as he yelled, stomped, and slapped through the traditional ancestral dance.
Sharon Gomez also used the project to explore her ancestral roots.
Gomez said her mother is from Colombia, so she studied that country because of her mother's love of Colombian dances.
Gomez said she especially enjoyed learning the Mexican Hat Dance because it was fun and entertaining.
Sarah Johnson, 11, said she chose the country of Panama after her brother served an LDS mission there.
"My brother told us about the Panama Canal. He told us about how there are different people there. He said that some people build their houses on stilts because of the floods and to keep snakes away," Sarah said.
By the end of the school year, the students will have learned a little bit about the cultures of 90 different countries.