A world of opportunity at Brookview Elementary

September 27, 2018
culture club

Students and staff at Brookview Elementary School are learning about the world and its many languages and cultures by simply recognizing the people around them. With one of the most diverse student populations in the Stillwater Area Public School District, the district’s newest elementary school is finding ways to let students become teachers as they celebrate what makes them unique.

“Our goal is to be a school that celebrates differences and builds community,” said Beth Leavitt, Brookview’s Student Advocate/School Social Worker. “It’s important for students to see themselves and see their culture in school. This is a place to welcome all students, to celebrate them and allow them to be proud of their diversity.”

Every week nearly 30 students come together in two smaller groups as part of the school’s Culture and Language Club to meet with other students, play games, and learn about cultures around the world. They teach each other greetings and phrases in their own languages, and talk about the celebrations and traditions of their families. Students often bring artifacts and family treasures to share with one another and tell stories about where they come from.

“My favorite part of is learning about other people’s cultures and you can do things that you wouldn’t otherwise do, like learn new languages,” said Nati Sinebo, a fifth grader.

The idea to create a culture club at Brookview began with Brittany Perry, who teaches English language learners. She heard of a student coming to her school who was new to the country and didn’t have much experience in an American school setting. Perry had heard of a similar club at Afton-Lakeland Elementary and thought having a club at Brookview would be a good way for this young boy to make new friends.

“It’s about building friendships across cultures and coming together,” Perry said. “I saw that he was very hesitant to talk about his experiences until he saw a presentation from another student sharing about her culture. From then on he wanted to share all about his dad and grandpa’s life in Africa and about their story. He felt safe and saw that his own culture and language were cool.”

The skills and knowledge gained through the culture club isn’t just limited to those who attend the weekly meetings. Members of the club also spend time visiting classrooms within the building to present information about their country, their native language and their culture with other students. The students take part in the Brookview Live TV show, which shares morning announcements with the school, and greet school mates in their own languages. They have even had the opportunity to meet with teachers at the school to educate them on the customs, traditions, foods and celebrations of their culture.

“It’s very powerful,” said Farhiya Aden, a fifth grader whose family comes from Somalia. “You get to be the one standing up front and teaching the teachers a lot of stuff they don’t know about our culture. We can boss them around - in a good way.”

“They have to listen to us,” added Emily Calixto, who speaks Spanish and has a Mexican heritage.

In its second year of existence, Brookview has become a school community that celebrates the personal stories and cultures of all 450 of its students. From small things, like seeing a flag of their country hanging in the gymnasium, to bigger things like hearing a teacher greet them in their native language - students and families are made to feel welcome and honored.

“Brookview is really cool,” said Isreal Oso, a fifth grade student originally from Nigeria. “It feels good to be in class and add more friends and meet people. It’s good and awesome here.”