By Jeanie Scott
Eight years ago, Gillispie School teacher Jessica Epperson, then the student council adviser, suggested to the council’s class representatives that they create an international learning event for the school.
During the brainstorming session, the students realized that recruiting their parents to help run the event would let them enjoy more of the learning fun first-hand.
That first year, Epperson and the students recruited enough parents to create nine immersive classroom environments representing various countries. This year, more than 50 parents, grandparents, extended family, and teachers “hosted” 12 different countries for the eighth annual International Day. During a day without classes for grades prekindergarten through Grade 6, students traveled from room to room with handmade passports and travel bags. Each room represented a different country and was decorated and otherwise prepared by parent and teacher volunteers to provide an engaging experience for students. They hear national music, see flags, eat local and ethnic foods, pursue other relevant physical activities (games, dance, drumming, singing), and learn a great deal of history during educational presentations.
The first parent volunteer meeting is held in November — a full five months before the event.
Kelly Kjos, a parent who has volunteered at the event for many years, was born and raised in Australia and led an Australia experience for three years. This year, she and her parent partners decided to host Denmark. Parent Anne-Mette Drucker, a native of Denmark, provided authenticity.
Kjos and Drucker, along with four other parents, worked together to create an educational and fun event for the children featuring a Viking theme.
The students learned about the country’s history while viewing photos taken by Drucker while she lived in Denmark and recent visits. They “sailed” in a cardboard Viking boat hand-painted by the volunteers, sampled a Denmark pastry, also homemade by the parents, and painted rocks with a Viking motif as one of their souvenirs.
Epperson’s vision from eight years ago has grown into one of the most beloved days of the school year and there is no shortage of parent volunteers who are willing to help as “teachers for a day” as they share their knowledge and time.