Colorful pinatas full of candy and cultural educationNov 07, 2023 11:02AM ● By Jet Burnham
Members of Fort Herriman Middle School’s Culture Crew celebrate Hispanic Culture Month by making pinatas that represent various countries. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
Colorful and educational pinatas were destroyed and plundered by Fort Herriman Middle School students as part of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Members of the school’s Culture Crew and Makers Club designed the pinatas to represent symbols of various Hispanic countries’ cultures, such as Venezuela’s national flag, symbols of Mexico’s Day of the Dead and Panama’s symbol of good luck: a golden frog.
The pinatas were displayed, with a write-up about each country and its culture, for a few weeks before students broke them open and enjoyed the candy inside—treats from Hispanic countries.
At Fort Herriman Middle School, diversity and inclusion are a priority, said Culture Crew Adviser and school counselor Alyson Law. The Culture Crew holds monthly activities to help students recognize and celebrate their differences. Throughout the school year, they will highlight the cultures of Hispanics, Indigenous People, Arab-Americans, Blacks/African Americans, Polynesians, Asians and Europeans.
Club member Ivenice Rivas-Taufoo’u said her favorite part of the Culture Crew is planning lunch time activities to share dances, clothing and foods from different cultures.
“It definitely brings us closer, and we all have something in common,” she said.
Activities often include tasting candy from other countries.
Natalie Robinson, an eighth grader, was excited to taste candy from Hispanic countries.
“I believe it's cool to experience that,” she said. “Just having that experience to learn about a new culture other than your own is a really good one to have.”
Sierra Prescott, who has a Tongan heritage, likes being a part of Culture Crew.
“It’s cool to see other people’s culture and to have everyone work together to make everyone feel special,” she said.
Law said one purpose of highlighting cultures is to help students feel proud of and draw strength from their heritage.
“What we're trying to do is help kids tap into what their family traditions are,” she said. “Because I strongly believe that when kids know where they come from, and they have that solid route, they're more successful, they're able to stretch more, and see more, and experience more when they have that solid tie to their family and to their heritage.”
She said it is especially important for middle school students, who are trying to figure out who they are and how they relate to others.
“We can help them understand that you have a core to you, it's not just what you look like, because it's so easy to focus on the external at this age,” Law said. “When we can help them tie to that core of who they are and where they come from, that makes their ability to define themselves and figure out who they are in relation to the world a little bit easier.”
This also applies to Caucasian students who Law said often think that they don’t have a culture.
“We're trying to educate the kids on there's so many different types of culture,” Law said. “It's not just ethnicities. It's the way that your family vacations. It's the way that you treat elders. It's your religion.”
Culture Crew activities provide fun interactions for students from all different backgrounds.
“The students have been so receptive of one another,” Law said. “It's really benefiting the school in that we're bringing students into engagement with one another that they probably necessarily wouldn't on their own.”
Embracing each other’s differences is the purpose behind Fort Herriman Middle’s theme for this year, “You Belong at The Fort.”
“This year, our main focus is that you belong,” Law said. “Your experiences belong, your values belong, the things that you love—we want them here, we want you here, the teachers want you here—the admin, counselors, all of the staff—we want you here at The Fort. We don't want loneliness. We don't want separation. We want you.” λ