“I need a beat from you guys. Help me out, OK?”
With that, the students of Julie Hockridge’s class began clapping on their desks and thumping their heels on the floor, in time, as their teacher played a brief folk song on the violin.
With the aid of her instrument, a bunch of leeks and a rugby jersey, the Wilkinson School teacher devoted a chunk of Friday’s lesson plan to talking to her fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students about Wales. Hockridge was born in Swansea, located in the southern part of the United Kingdom country, and moved with her family to the United States around a decade ago.
Hockridge discussed the culture and traditions of Wales as part of Wilkinson’s celebration of Cultural Week from Feb. 1-5. The El Granada school started Cultural Week about five years ago according to Principal Tim Miller.
“We set up a goal that we'd figure out the right format so parents could share their passions, their jobs, their heritage in different ways,” Miller said. “Over the last 10 yeas, we’ve had an increasing amount of international families in our school. Multiculturalism is a key at all schools in the United States, but more than ever we feel like we have all these amazing people from practically every continent and it’s important to bring their backgrounds, passions and differences to the kids.”
That meant that throughout the week, parents from countries around the globe stopped by and spoke about the language, music, food and other aspects of their cultures. Students dined on Finnish pastries, Bolognese sauce and Japanese rice cakes, among other fare.
A parent to a seventh-grade daughter at Wilkinson, Hockridge gave a presentation on Wales at the school shortly before becoming a teacher there a few years ago. On Friday morning, she donned the rugby jersey of the Welsh team as she explained how fans passionately sing their national anthem in the stadium before games. To illustrate Wales’ reputation as the “land of song,” Hockridge played the class a clip of a Welsh boys choir performing on the television show, “Britain’s Got Talent.”
“We’re incredibly proud of being Welsh. It’s a core part of who we are,” Hockridge told her students. “Singing the Welsh national anthem is the best thing ever. There’s nothing like it.”
Fourth-grader Hailee MacLean-Herbert’s favorite part of her teacher’s presentation was when she played the violin because she liked hearing a Welsh song.
“Cultural Week is nice because we get to learn about different cultures and how different it is to California,” she said. “Like Norway and Hawaii — they’re two different places, but we get to learn about them.”
MacLean-Herbert added that she is a quarter Welsh and thinks it’s neat to have that heritage in common with her teacher.
Hockridge says she thinks it’s important for children to have exposure to other cultures and countries and not exclusively learn about American history.
“Recognizing the similarities and differences between America and other parts of the world helps with our school philosophy about having a well-rounded experience for them,” she said.