DCDS students share their holiday spirit

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 21, 2017

 Second-grader Karishma Vakhariya spins the dreidel as she learns about Hanukkah.

Second-grader Karishma Vakhariya spins the dreidel as she learns about Hanukkah.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 Nikol Uribe Guiza, a junior at Detroit Country Day School, teaches second-graders about the Christmas Nativity as part of a program to educate the younger students about the holiday season’s various celebrations.

Nikol Uribe Guiza, a junior at Detroit Country Day School, teaches second-graders about the Christmas Nativity as part of a program to educate the younger students about the holiday season’s various celebrations.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 Sahithy Orugant, a 10th-grader at Detroit Country Day School, was one of the high school students teaching younger children about the Hindu festival of Diwali.

Sahithy Orugant, a 10th-grader at Detroit Country Day School, was one of the high school students teaching younger children about the Hindu festival of Diwali.

Photo by Donna Agusti

BEVERLY HILLS — The second-graders at Detroit Country Day School in Beverly Hills got a special lesson in why people say “happy holidays.”

Several older students at the Upper School led the younger children in a program to explain the different holidays celebrated by various cultures around December. This included the Muslim observation of Ramadan, the Hindu festival of Diwali, the Chinese New Year, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Christmas.

“Last year was the first year we organized it,” explained Kim Lockhart, a second-grade teacher at DCDS’s Lower School. “We were trying to revamp the social studies program, and we thought bridging the Upper School and Lower School was a great idea.”

The second-graders traveled from booth to booth, where Upper School students who celebrate each respective holiday explained the significance of the holiday, why it is celebrated, and different ways it is celebrated.

“It lets them see different experiences through a different way of learning besides just reading things out of a book,” said Lockhart. “Exposing them to others’ cultures always amazes me because they are so accepting of others and they are always so interested.”

Each booth was decorated according to the different holidays, with photos, toys, religious items and other examples of each culture and holiday.

“The students designed their booths themselves,” explained Lockhart. “We gave them some bullet points we wanted them to hit, like including an interactive element, but they decided how to best represent their culture.”

Junior Ali Naeem convinced some of his fellow Muslim friends to join him at the Ramadan booth after an email went out looking for volunteers.

“We want to make sure we don’t miss any important aspects, like fasting and praying, but we also wanted to make sure we made connections to other holidays (they’re more familiar with), like Christmas or Hanukkah, so they have an easier time understanding,” said Naeem. “We also don’t want to take things too seriously and (we want to) make sure they have fun.”

Junior Kristina Zheng studies Chinese at the school, and she leapt at the chance to share Chinese culture with others, as it is a passion of hers. She said she particularly likes talking about the Chinese New Year because it marks a fresh start and a new chance to improve one’s self.

“It’s interesting when we ask them what they know about Chinese New Year, and a lot of them will know about the food or wearing red, but they won’t know why,” said Zheng. “It’s really important people have knowledge about the different holidays and cultures around the world, and it’s great I get to share some of my own traditions with others.”

Senior Kathleen MacLean was one of the older students talking about Christmas, and she said that while all of the kids know about Christmas, not all know the whole story about why it is celebrated.

“They all know about Santa Claus, but a lot about Jesus’ birth gets masked by the presents and everything else, so it’s nice to let them know more about what it’s really about,” said MacLean. “We ask them what they do for Christmas, and we share the Nativity story. We sing songs and we share how Christmas is celebrated in different countries like Mexico or Italy.”

After the presentations, the younger students had lunch with the older students and played some games with them in the Upper School field house.

The younger students reacted with excitement to the chance to learn about the other holidays, and they said they hope they get to do more with the older students again in the future.

“It was fun because I didn’t know anything about Diwali or Chinese New Year,” said second-grader Andrew Kwon. “It was all really interesting. I didn’t know about the Greeks attacking (the Maccabees) was part of Hanukkah.”

The older students came up with different and creative ways to teach the second-graders, and this was a big hit with the younger kids.

“We played ‘duck duck Diwali’ at the Diwali booth. We acted out a play at the Christmas booth, and we heard them read a lot of books,” said second-grader Peter Spanopoulos. “I was surprised about the fireworks they do for Diwali — I thought they just lit candles — and that’s cool.”

Beyond the holidays themselves, Lockhart said it was a positive program for both the younger and older students, and it allowed them all to grow in unconventional ways.

“I think it allows the older students to grow their leadership and presentation skills,” said Lockhart. “I think it allows the younger students a peek at where they are headed in the Upper School.”