Seymour Middle School hosts Culture Night event

From tasting a sample of Brie to learning origami, seventh-grader Zach Couch appreciates what other cultures have to offer.

He likes learning about different countries and hopes to visit Mexico someday to try authentic Mexican salsa, he said.

Since many of his friends and classmates at Seymour Middle School come from a different country, Couch said it’s important to know about places other than the United States.

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On Tuesday evening, Couch and other students had the opportunity to travel around the world without ever stepping foot on an airplane.

Through Seymour Middle School’s annual Culture Night, students and their families experienced food, crafts, games, music, art, lifestyles and traditions from eight different countries.

Teachers and staff spent time putting together each stop, finding fun and interesting ways for students to explore Mexico, Japan, Brazil, India, Kenya, France, Germany and Honduras.

Many of the countries are represented by students who attend SMS.

Although not a country, southern Indiana also was represented with a booth that highlighted cornhole, camping and farming.

Couch said food is the best way to get to know a different country, and he appreciated the free samples of Japanese candy, German potato salad, tortilla chips and salsa and baguette chips with French cheeses.

“The chocolate from Brazil was the best,” he said.

He picked up a lot of useful facts and information at the event, too, he said. Students were required to take a provided passport to each country and ask questions in order to get their passport stamped.

Participants learned about pinatas and Mexican fiestas, the four islands that make up Japan (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu) and how to say hello in Japanese (Konnichiwa), how many oranges are produced in Brazil annually (16 million tons) and what kind of cooking spices are used in India (cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric, cardamom and cumin), among other interesting tidbits.

“I learned a lot, like the capital of Japan is Tokyo,” Couch said.

Couch’s mom, Tammy, said she was impressed by the event and enjoyed learning alongside her son.

“I like for him to learn and see different cultures,” she said.

She was surprised to find out France’s biggest export is aircraft.

“I thought the information about India’s caste system was really interesting, too,” she said.

This was the fourth year for the Culture Night event, and Principal J.B. Royer said it’s a good way to get kids and adults to try something different.

The event also helps students from other countries feel more at home in Seymour, he said.

“By showing an interest in their culture, we want them to know we care about them and appreciate them,” he said.

Eighth-graders Daetona Boling and Faith Gray enjoyed visiting the countries together and even tried their hand at a contest to see who was the fastest at picking up candy with chopsticks.

The winner of the race wasn’t Boling or Gray but ended up being fifth-grader Shunsuke Takeuchi.

Boling said she was taught how to use chopsticks when she was much younger but hadn’t used them in a long time.

“I kind of forgot how,” she said, laughing. “So I was just stabbing the candy with them.”

Even though she didn’t win, she said she liked the learning experience.

Gray said the best part of Culture Night is getting to try all of the different foods, but if she could travel anywhere in the world, it would be somewhere warm and tropical.

“Like Bora Bora,” she said.

Boling said she wants to go to Alaska someday.

“I really want to see the Northern Lights,” she said.

Social studies teacher Matt Martin said he hopes all of the students and guests were able to leave the event with a better understanding of another culture.

“Most people only have a vague understanding of other places in the world, so if we can expose them to more information and even pique their interest into learning more, then the evening was a success,” he said.

Although he teaches geography, Martin said he is still able to discover something new about each of the cultures displayed at the event.

“Our booth about Mexico focused mainly on a traditional fiesta or birthday party,” he said. “From our research, I was able to learn about some of the elements that a traditional Mexican party would have.”

One of those items is a game called balero. The game consists of a wooden handle to which a small ball is attached by a string and has a cup or peg upon which the player tries to catch or balance the ball.

After a few practice rounds, Martin was successful at getting the ball to land on the peg, but it was a lot harder than it looked, he said.

“It takes a while to get the hang of it,” he said.

Students also had fun trying to win the game.

Although students don’t always notice it, Martin said they are constantly connected with the entire world.

“If the students can get exposed to the positive aspects of other cultures now, they are more likely to use that knowledge to better interact with others in the future,” he said.

Eighth-grader Jillian Tormoehlen, president of the school’s FFA chaper, said Culture Night is very interesting.

She and other FFA members helped at the Germany booth, providing information about the country to their classmates and adults and handing out samples of German potato salad and Haribo gummy bears.

“It’s a great way to learn about different cultures,” she said.

It also helped her with her leadership and communication skills, she added.

But if she could go anywhere in the world, it wouldn’t be any of the countries that were featured.

“I would love to go to Ireland and go back to my Irish roots, just to see it,” she said.

Seventh-grader Hailey Robinson said she loved everything about Culture Night, but Japan was her favorite place to visit.

“The origami was fun, and I have a friend who is from Japan,” she said.

Royer’s dream is to see the event grow into something bigger than just Seymour Middle School.

“I’d love for us to have something here like the Ethnic Expo in Columbus,” he said. “This community is so diverse. We need to take time to educate people and celebrate our diversity.”