Image of Mary Ann Blakely, a 2nd grade teacher at the Casimir Pulaski School in Meriden, takes part in a salsa line with her students at the school’s 10 Annual Puerto Rican Festival, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011. The event is the culmination of the 2nd grade social studies unit on the island of Puerto Rico.
Teacher with students Image
By Bob Stern
MERIDEN – For most of Tuesday, the gymnasium at Casimir Pulaski School had a different feel. The students were not playing traditional games like kickball, but instead learning about Puerto Rico.
Pulaski’s five second-grade classes danced, ate and crafted their morning away. The Puerto Rican festival was the culmination of a month-long lesson on the history and culture of the Caribbean island and U.S. commonwealth. It is the 10th time the event has been held following the Puerto Rican unit in the grade’s social studies curriculum.
“Many of our children were born or have visited the island,” said teacher Mary Ann Blakely. “They were able to (contribute) from their own experiences.”
The more than 100 students feasted on several types of native Puerto Rican foods like rice and beans, empanadas and assorted meats. The foods were prepared by students’ parents, who were also invited to the event, which lasted about two hours.
“We wanted it to be a community based event,” said teacher Amy Benigni. “It’s good to have the parents involved.”
The students also got a crash course in salsa dancing, while music played throughout the morning. Students were able to make maracas to shake and make music with, as well.
In another portion of the gym, students were given an art lesson and made Puerto Rican flags, hibiscus flowers and masks. The masks, known as vejigantes, depicted clown-like characters used in typical Puerto Rican festivals. They are meant to ward off evil spirits, Blakely said.
Members of Platt High School’s Diversity Club also attended, helping at many of the work stations and with food distribution. Many were also dancing with students teaching them how to salsa. The inclusion of older students, Blakely said, affirmed the importance of learning about the culture.
Principal Tom Brown said the annual event is a positive one for the school.
“There’s marvelous foods and Latino music,” Brown said. “It’s really a half of a day festival.”