Peabody students shine at this year’s International Festival
By Ginger Spickler
The students of Peabody Elementary have traveled the world this year, all from the comfort of their hundred-year-old classrooms, thanks to the school’s international studies focus. And in May each year the kids and their teachers put on an International Festival to share all they’ve learned with their parents and community.
On May 13, this year’s festival kicked off in the school’s packed cafetorium with an incredible performance by Peabody’s choir and dance ensemble, all under the very capable leadership of long-time music teacher, Mr. Jerry Sanders. The fourth graders, fifth graders, and third grade optional students formed the choir and sang songs from around the world. The fourth and fifth grade dance ensemble performed half a dozen numbers, each with its own costumes and props, including a dance honoring the people of Japan. The highlight of the performance was the finale, during which the students sang a moving rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly.”
Among the appreciative audience at the festival’s opening performance were such dignitaries as Memphis City Schools Optional Program Director Dr. Linda Sklar and Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Linda Kennard. Chief Public Defender of Shelby County, Stephen Bush, also made an appearance (the Public Defender’s office is a Peabody adopter), as did state Senator Beverly Marrero. Senator Marrero honored the school by delivering a certificate to Principal Kongsouly Jones from Governor Bill Haslam declaring a day of recognition for Peabody Elementary School.
After dismissing from the cafetorium, students and teachers hurried back to their classrooms, which they had set up to make visitors feel as if they were being transported to the various locales the children had been studying all year. Parents and other community members were issued “passports” to get stamped as they journeyed through the different countries, eating and learning about world culture as they went.
From the preschool class, which studied Memphis this year and treated guests to barbecue sandwiches while they admired their model of the river and other Memphis landmarks; to the fifth grade classes, which studied Japan and got lessons not only in Japanese history, geography, and culture, but also in how to help suffering people a world away, students demonstrated a depth of understanding about the world around them that many adults probably couldn’t match.
Principal Jones summed up the International Festival experience, “International Festival is a unique opportunity for Peabody students to be exposed to cultural knowledge and experiences not seen in most elementary schools. In this era of standardized testing, we feel that these are indispensable experiences and lessons that give our faculty and staff an opportunity to teach the whole child.”