Celebrating Cultures: Global Minnesota opens doors to the world for Southgate students

Published 8:09 am Thursday, March 28, 2019

While Southgate Elementary School students were in their classrooms on Wednesday morning, they were actually traveling around the world.

Global Minnesota hosted its World Cultures Day as part of the organization’s Classroom Connection program. Having previously visited Sumner Elementary and Neveln Elementary earlier this year, the countries of Ghana, South Korea, India and Brazil were in the district’s backyard.

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Using interactive cross-cultural lessons to promote international understanding, global perspectives and connections, the Austin Public Schools District aimed to celebrate the growing cultural diversity in classrooms as well as in the community by having learning opportunities available for its students. By doing so, Southgate students were able to learn more about the world.

“This is an opportunity for our school to learn about different cultures and celebrate our students for who they are,” said Principal Katie Baskin. “We wanted to celebrate the different cultures that exist in our building. This is amazing. This opens the door to the world for them.”

Classroom Connection and World Cultures Day in Austin is funded partly with support from Hormel Foods Corporation, which is a member organization of Global Minnesota.

“As a global food company, we recognize the importance of diversity and just how important it is for young children in Minnesota,” said Tim Barinka, vice president of marketing for Hormel Foods International Corporation. “We are proud to support Global Minnesota on this important and educational experience.”

For Austin children, learning more about other cultures is a way of building a global community, as well as building friendships through education.

“We wanted to dispel stereotypes and teach students about different cultures,” said Sylvia Oxenham, K-12 education manager for Global Minnesota. “We’re teaching them more through similarities as opposed to focusing on what makes people different.”

Daehan Lee, of South Korea, explains his background to Southgate Elementary students during World Cultures Day.
Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

A world without limits

All Southgate students in grades 2-4 were treated to various presentations, from what breakfast is like in Brazil to learning about what kinds of games India has created for its children.

“Our kiddos do pre-learning and thought up questions to ask about what they wanted to know from the volunteers,”Baskin said. “It’s so great to hear our students ask questions that are so honest, pure and great. Their minds are absorbing information like sponges.”

Daehan Lee, an education intern for Global Minnesota, shared his dreams of becoming an English teacher in South Korea and came to the United States to learn everything he can. During his lessons, Lee taught Southgate students about the symbolism of the country’s flag, as well as teaching them greetings in Korean. He even had a student volunteer to get dressed in a traditional hanbok.

“I think the students fully enjoyed it,” Lee said. “I love students, and I’m really happy to be here. I wanted to connect directly to native English speakers. The ultimate goal was to teach students appropriate cultural understanding without stereotypes.”

Kale Kelley, a Southgate fourth grade student, didn’t know anything about South Korea prior to Lee’s lesson. He found the subject interesting, and felt he learned more about another country that seemed so far away without having to leave Austin.

“It was good,” Kelley expressed. “I learned about the Korean flag and how the symbols represented earth, fire, water and I learned how to greet other people. I never knew much about South Korean, and it’s cool learning the meaning of the flag. I think it’s very interesting.”