Cultural Fair Rounds out International Emerging Leaders Conference

A lithe young man stood center stage inside of Collegiate School’s Estes Multipurpose Room this afternoon, beaming as he shared a tale in the traditional South African storytelling style, his words animated with wide sweeps of his arms. A trio of his peers sat rapt at his feet, and dozens more watched from the audience. “We’re going to teach you guys a dance,” he said and suddenly, Collegiate students, parents and teachers flocked to the front, their heads bobbing and feet pounding to the pulsing beat of a pop song by the Distruction Boyz.

The presentation, by four South African students, was part of Friday afternoon’s Cultural Fair, an exciting end to a week of global learning and creative problem solving.
Hosted for Collegiate 3rd and 4th Graders, the Fair capped the weeklong 8th annual International Emerging Leaders Conference (IELC), a signature Collegiate program which this week brought 43 students from 10 countries together with 18 Collegiate students to develop innovative solutions to specific environmental challenges by teaching them how to collaborate cross-culturally and use design thinking as a strategic method for creating impact.

I like what they’re doing!” said 3rd Grader Meredith Rivers, pointing to the stage as a quartet of students from Kazakhstan began the next performance, one of about a dozen presented today. She gripped a light blue paper passport marked with the countries she’d “visited” so far during the Cultural Fair. Each country was represented through stands lining the room, staffed by international students. They offered Collegiate students and parents edible treats and fun facts about their homelands, including India, China, Spain, Ghana and other nations.

Melissa Ann Conner said she has three children enrolled at Collegiate. As her 4th Grade daughter Catherine Conner stopped by the Moroccan booth, Ms. Conner said the yearly IELC programming and Cultural Fair enhance her kids’ perspectives of the world and its citizens.

“I feel that my children understand better that they’re part of the global community,” she said. “They have a much broader view, rather than an insular one.”

As she enjoyed the Cultural Fair, Charlene Misihairabwi, a teacher chaperone from Rustenburg, South Africa, said that the training that all of the high school delegates to the conference received on the process of design thinking was an impactful learning experience for her, too.

“The design thinking (process) that we have been enacting all week will help me to lead students into a path of discovery.”

The international students and their teachers will return to Washington, D.C. this week and fly to respective countries on Sunday. But as with every year, Collegiate leaders of IELC said their time here has created a lasting impression.

“Today was the first day that the (international) students were focused on community – with classroom visits to the Lower School and Middle School this morning and then with the Cultural Fair this afternoon, with the 3rd and 4th Graders and parents,” said Collegiate Upper School teacher Rhiannon Boyd, who helped organized this year’s conference.

“Having our international students come and share their culture with our school changes our school, as it has for the past eight years,” Mrs. Boyd said. “It has broadened us, because they come here and touch so many parts of our Collegiate family.”
– By Samantha Willis
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