At , an age-old tradition comes to an end this year.
Every year for the last 15 years, sixth grade students celebrate the culmination of their ancient history studies by enjoying a day-long Ancient Civilization Celebration. The tradition will change next year to complement the new state standards for sixth grade social studies.
After studying five ancient civilizations—Egypt, India, China, Rome and the Mediterranean—throughout the school year, students look forward to this MMW tradition. Students participate in an interactive day at school, filled with music, dances, traditions and foods from these cultures.
Mary Benson, a sixth grade history teacher, began this cultural tradition when students were required to study Latin America.
“Students really got into learning about the countries in Latin America," she said. "They would select a country to research and made presentations to the class.”
To celebrate their knowledge and the cultures, Benson organized a student banquet with food representing the different countries.
“Before students had access to the Internet, we would give them recipes of different dishes to make," she said. "Now, students use technology to prepare web pages on their selected cultures. They also research their own recipes and with their parents’ help, they can be creative in making food from around the world.”
The day begins with entertainment from a Chinese dance group. After watching the dancers perform traditional Chinese dances, students volunteer to learn and replicate the dance moves.
Students also go on a virtual world tour of Australia, Indonesia and Africa with a gypsy dancer and an animal handler who shows reptiles, including a bearded dragon, a tortoise, crocodiles and arboreal snakes. But the highlight for students is having the chance to see, touch and hold an eight-foot python.
Students then feast on foods from the five geographical locations. “Try foods you’ve never tried before,” Tom Condon, a sixth grade math teacher, told students.
The afternoon is filled with guest speakers who share their knowledge of India, Egypt, Persia, China and Greece.
“Every year, the speakers tell me they are amazed by how much the students know about each area,” said Benson. “When I travel around the District, former students ask me if we are still doing Ancient Civilization Day because they have such fond memories of that day when they were at MMW. Even the teachers are excited for the day." In fact, the teachers got into the spirit of the day by dressing in costumes from the different areas.
Because of new state standards for sixth grade Social Studies curriculum, students are required to study Minnesota history. In Minnetonka middle schools, students will expand their understanding of history by exploring the geography and historical developments of people, places and patterns of life from a combination of ancient civilizations and Minnesota history.
Benson said they are already exploring new ideas for a Minnesota Celebration Day, including bringing Minnesota Native American dancers and music, Civil War soldiers from Fort Snelling and experts from the Minnesota History Center to MMW.
“We know how much the students enjoy this day, and we want to keep it an interactive day where students can be creative and experience different cultures here in school," Benson said. "Our goal is to have as many kids as we can continue to experience this day."