District 20 children celebrate multi-culturalism

Pre-k festival features music, art, food

November 28, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Paraprofessional Allison Rodriguez (left) and teacher Andrea Sideli inspired Class 102 to dress as ancient Egyptians for the festival. Photos courtesy of Camille Loccisano
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The music, art, food and flavor of 15 different countries could all be found in one place on a recent afternoon as educators from the Pre-K for All program in School District 20 hosted a multicultural festival at its Bay 11th Street site in Bensonhurst.

The four-year-old children who attend pre-K classes at the site at 21 Bay 11th St. shared what they learned with the grown-ups in the audience during the fun-filled day, which also included songs and dances performed by the kids.

The festival was inspired by the shared goals of the pre-K program, according to Dianne Gounardes, the Early Childhood Education director for School District 20.

The children are taught the values of respecting people’s differences and the importance of embracing many cultures and ethnicities, Gounardes said. The idea is to build a foundation of kindness, tolerance and caring at this early level, which will ultimately yield a strong community where all people from all backgrounds can coexist in harmony, she said.

“Our District 20 pre-K program is built on the premise that we must each learn to accept and respect all cultures, races and religions in order to become productive citizens of the world. This is so important because the world is constantly changing, and part of our job as educators is to prepare our children for the real world — a world that is filled with many rich cultures and traditions,” Gounardes said in a statement.

It’s vital for educators to help children start off on the right road, Gounardes said. “Starting with our youngest learners, we must seize the opportunity to teach them love and acceptance of all people. I am incredibly proud of our children, seeing them sing, dance and participate in many activities that represent the 15 cultures highlighted today was an uplifting and hopeful experience,” she said.

As part of the festival, each classroom was devoted to a specific country to give visitors a chance to go on a virtual tour of the globe. The countries represented in the event included Egypt, Greece, Russia, India, Poland, Brazil and Israel.

Alexis N. Confer, the chief of staff in the Mayor’s Office for Strategic Policy Initiatives, was spotted in the audience enjoying the festivities. Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) and John Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden, were also in attendance.

District 20, which covers Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights and includes parts of Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Borough Park and Sunset Park, operates nine stand-alone pre-K centers. The pre-K program serves approximately 1,200 families, officials said.

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