Jim Amidon — A dozen men from Wabash College began their Diversity Day presentations at Hose School last Thursday with a simple question: “Do any of you know what the word diversity means?”
In the first session with kindergartners, first graders, and second graders, a smattering of hands went up with a few whispered comments. In the second session with third, fourth, and fifth graders, over 100 hands went up with one student standing to say, “Diversity means difference.”
Click here to see pictures from Diversity Day.
The Wabash students’ visit to Hose, sponsored by Character Counts! and driven by Diamond Deacon, was designed to illustrate for the young people that while there are vast cultural differences among us, we actually share more in common than people think.
Over the course of two 45-minute skits, the Wabash students talked about language, culture, traditions, holidays, sports, and music. The Hose students got to participate with questions and comments, and a few even learned how to handle a cricket bat.
Earl Rooks, a Dallas, Texas native, and Juan Carlos Venis (right), who hails from Crawfordsville, served as emcees.
Taz Ahmed, who is a rock star in his home country of Bangladesh and an award-winning chemistry student at Wabash, began the festivities playing a drum — an African drum. After a few dozen Hose students had the opportunity to bang the drum, Emmanuel Aouad, whose parents are from Ghana, Africa but live in Terre Haute, joined in playing jazz saxophone.
Venis pointed out for the students that a native of Bangladesh was playing an African drum with a native African playing an American jazz riff on the sax.
Yes, diversity means difference, but as the rhythm of the drums echoed in the Hose gymnasium, everyone stomped to the familiar beat.
Wabash men taught the Hose students to say “hello” and “how are you” in five different languages. Hose students, in turn, taught some of the Wabash guys the same phrases in Korean, German, and Japanese. No matter what the language, every greeting included a firm and respectful handshake.
Khondoker Haider brought lots of energy to the program. He also brought his cricket bat and ball, and taught the kids the difference between baseball and cricket. It was the similarities between the two sports, though, that served as the useful metaphor for the discussion of diversity.
It was great, too, when Luis Quiroga, a native of La Paz, Bolivia asked the kids if they knew how to play the game of futball. Only a couple of arms went up. But when Luis began juggling a soccer ball with his feet and head, the students learned that futball — not football — is THE international game. When asked if they played the game of soccer, almost every hand went up.
Luis and his cohorts built in some fun, as well. They invited students and teachers from the audience to participate in cricket and futball demonstrations. The teachers held their own as goalkeepers, and retiring principal John Tidd hit a couple of cricket balls out of the park!
One of the final segments of the Hose Diversity Day was a short skit, narrated by a Caleb Mast, a white basketball player from Kokomo, who read a thoughtful story about the contributions of African American people. Charles Jackson (left) acted out the scenario called “What if there were no black people?” Charles found he couldn’t dry his clothes, iron his wrinkled shirt, comb his hair, light his furnace to stay warm, or chill his food in the refrigerator. It was a special message intended to reinforce the idea that all people make powerful contributions to our society.
After the skit, Khondoker asked each student to spend some time thinking about what the term “one world” means and to draw a picture that best represents the phrase. The Wabash guys will look over the completed drawings and award prizes to the most original interpretations.
Just as they opened it, Venis and Rooks closed the session. Venis talked about the unique qualities of every individual and the need to respect people on the basis of their cultural differences. Rooks’ message was far more basic, and he got every student at Hose School united in chanting “One World! One World! One World!”
It was a pretty cool thing to see how in 45 minutes that many elementary school students could go from defining diversity as “difference” to defining diversity as “one world.”
Perhaps if we listened closely to them, those same young people could teach us a lot more than how to say hello in Japanese.