Gregory Elementary celebrates Hispanic heritage with schoolwide exhibition

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — Gregory Elementary School celebrated the completion of its five-week unit of study on Hispanic heritage with a schoolwide exhibit on Oct. 26. Parents, students, and faculty turned out for an evening full of color, culture and information. 

“As part of our annual acknowledgment for Hispanic Heritage Month, each grade level team built a unit of study that focuses on a Hispanic country, region or commonwealth,” Principal Makeida Hewitt said.

Each grade level chose the following: kindergarten, Spain; first grade, Peru; second grade, Venezuela; third grade, Mexico; fourth grade, Colombia; and fifth grade, each homeroom covered an island in the Caribbean, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic.

“To highlight all of the work that the students have done, we showcased projects in the hallways so that our parents could engage in a gallery walk around the building for a ‘night at the museum,’” Hewitt said. “As a bonus, our school diversity committee developed hands-on activities for students and parents to create together.”

Activities included creating: Peruvian llamas accompanied by a read-aloud of “Maria Had a Little Llama”; Caribbean and Latin maracas; Mexican Aztec suns; Puerto Rican paper bag puppets accompanied by a read-aloud of “Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré”; and Guatemalan worry dolls.

To add a fun informational element to the evening, the team developed a trivia competition, replete with prizes. Each day during Hispanic Heritage Month, students read one fun fact each morning during announcements and students were told to pay special attention to them to prepare for the trivia challenge. To pay homage to the beloved sport of football, the physical education department also set up soccer shoots in the gym.

“It was nice to see the school community spending time together and enjoying each other’s company,” Hewitt said. “To make the night a warm and loving community event that accentuates the Hispanic culture for all to enjoy, I scheduled Benji’s food truck and a live mariachi band to keep everything festive and lively, and Gregory School PTA joined us in having a craft table in the cafeteria where students and families colored and decorated Panamanian molas.

“It has been a long time since we’ve had an organized event by the Gregory faculty,” she continued. “Seeing the students’ smiles and watching them take part in learning and life experiences that they’ve missed out on over the last few years due to the pandemic brought tears to my eyes. It is beginning to feel like we are back home again.”

Photos Courtesy of WOSD