Brookdale celebrates 10th Small World Day

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Brookdale Elementary School held its 10th annual Small World Day festival Friday, Feb. 26. The festival is a celebration of the rich ancestral diversity of Brookdale schoolchildren.

Small World Day has evolved over the years. At one time, the gymnasium, where the activity is held, was given a faux-airport terminal feel with announcements of departures coming from a loudspeaker, alerting children to move from one exhibition to the next. But native foods and passports are still on schedule, as is traditional dress and wide-eyed, curious kids.

The event highlights a number of countries with stations offering food, exhibitions of hand goods, toys, maps and photographs. What still makes Small World Day special, and an American experience, is that station hosts are often immigrant parents or grandparents who share their recollections of a faraway homeland.

This year, four destinations were on the itinerary for the children/travelers: South Korea, Poland, Greece, and the two-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. South Korea was making its second consecutive appearance. The individuals at this station, mostly young women who wore impressive white gowns, were Bloomfield College students who have completed their teacher certification and are currently pursuing post-graduate credits.

According to Small World Day co-chairwomen Kami Lacki and Monica Lutz, one change that has come about is the order in which the 18 Brookdale classes visit the gym. Once it was kindergarten to sixth-grader. But Lacki said this was reversed to benefit the youngest children by giving them more time to settle down in the morning. She also said Brookdale Home and School Association oversees the event but Small World Day is essentially in the hands of the parents, many of them not association members. Each class visits the gym for about 35 minutes.

The food was good.
At the Poland exhibition, kielbasa and perogies, of course. But also a chocolate-covered marshmallow confection marvelously called ptasie mleczko: bird’s milk.

Touching down in Greece, one could sample tyropitakia, dolmadakia, keftedakia and koulourakia, respectively, cheese pie, grape leaves, meatballs, and a butter cookie.

At St. Kitts and Nevis, there was hard dough bread, guava jam and tamarind balls. The host at this station, Coreene Olaya, who has attended every Small World Day and was in traditional dress, said Columbus discovered St. Kitts. Edibles offered by South Korea included kimchi and honey rice cakes, which looked like a small pierogi.

Also at the South Korean exhibit, the children had the opportunity to learn that taekwondo is the only Olympic martial arts sport; that “tae” means foot; “kwon” means fist; and “do’ is discipline. One young South Korean man, a certified teacher attending Bloomfield College and practiced in Taekwondo, held striking paddles for boys and girls to kick and punch.
The more things change the more they remain the same. Small World Day is always a vacation.