Santa Rosa school's 'Passport Day' brings world cultures to campus
Published: Friday, May 3, 2013 at 4:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 3, 2013 at 4:40 p.m.
The smell of warm minestrone soup wafted from the depths of Mount Vesuvius on Friday as students bent low to crawl through the fiery volcano on their way to a ... cafe.
Once inside, students found a decorative fountain gurgling in the center of the “piazza” and a gaggle of volunteers ready to serve Italian goodies.
“I chose Italy because it's a very peaceful place. It has very good food and the surroundings are spectacular,” fourth grader Mateo Hernandez said of his itinerary pick.
Passport Day at Proctor Terrace Elementary School in Santa Rosa transformed the Bryden Lane campus as classrooms became countries and backpacks were traded in for paper totes capable of carrying souvenirs. Students carried passports and travel logs, taking notes about their travels.
Prior to Friday's full-day affair, students filled out “visa requests” to visit particular countries and were ultimately granted permission to visit three.
Teachers and students have spent weeks preparing their rooms for Friday's event where volunteers gave lectures on Dutch cheesemaking, offered lessons in Turkish board games and even gave yoga lessons.
“I feel pretty passionate about it,” said fifth grade teacher Susan Feige, who for approximately 10 years has spearheaded the biennial event at Proctor. “It's really driven by whatever the individual teacher's desire is, how far they want to take it.”
Some teachers take it extraordinarily far.
Tara Lyon's third grade classroom on Friday was cordoned off by painted murals into four distinct areas: a Turkish cafe where kolay pogaca and baklava were served, the Kapalicarsi grand bazaar, a craft center, and a game room with pillows and rugs where students were taught how to play backgammon.
“I watch them come in and they are kind of wide-eyed and confused which is how I can feel when I go traveling,” she said.
At least 50 volunteers, sometimes four to a room to make the scene work, were on hand serving food, giving demonstrations, and in the case of Wendy Warren, presenting gold medals.
Warren, mom of a sixth grader, spent the day in “Greece,” supervising the Olympic Games and leading teams through javelin with a foam noodle, shot put with wiffle balls and relays.
“It's a lot of work for the teachers, but it's so great,” she said.
The event is held every other year because of weeks of work that go into pulling it off. Teachers have spent the last three or four weeks integrating aspects of their country's culture, climate and history into the regular curriculum.
“There is so much heart and soul put into it,” said Kathy Doig, mother of two Proctor Terrace students. “The kids remember what they did two years ago.”
Parent Jason Parrish gave a talk on Dutch cheese and chocolate Friday, noting that both involve a keen understanding of chemistry. Parrish, who has a fourth and seventh grader, has seen Passport Day play out over the years and said it gives students a sense of the wider world.
“Especially as they do it over time,” he said. “It kind of builds upon the fact that there is a bigger world out there.”
(Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.)