International Night at Angell
Bringing a taste of home to Ann Arbor
by Nehama Glogower
Published in August, 2019
Forty nationalities of kids are represented at Angell Elementary on Ann Arbor's near east side. So when International Night comes around each spring to Angell, it isn't just a theoretical exercise. They're bringing a taste of home to Ann Arbor.
But for the months leading up to big event, the road can be bumpy for some incoming students, many of whom come to this country with graduate student parents who live in U-M's Northwood townhouses. Principal Gary Court notes that it's not just a matter of learning English--kids have to adjust to American mannerisms, too. He recalled a non-English-speaking new student who had a physical altercation with another player on the soccer field during recess. Court called over another child who spoke the boy's language to explain their playground rules. Though he didn't understand the conversation, he noticed some eye-rolling--crazy Americans! Thankfully, kids tend to go with the flow, he says, and the crisis was resolved.
Angell's welcoming, inclusive atmosphere builds global friendships. Court says connections made at school are maintained via Skype and email long after the international students return to their home countries.
The highlight of Angell's year is International Night, organized every spring by parent volunteers. The Parade of Nations, formatted like opening night at the Olympics, draws up to 500 people, far beyond the capacity of the school auditorium, so it is held at a neighboring church. As the Olympic theme song is played, families and students dressed in folk outfits march into the room in alphabetical order. Iraqi and Israeli flags stand side by side, just as in the Olympics. Mr. Court welcomes each nation and shares factoids about them, which the children love.
Everyone then returns to Angell to browse wide-ranging exhibits created by students, often with the help of parents native to that country. Students, parents, and guests roam the building from room to room. Each student receives a passport to be stamped, followed by a scavenger hunt.
The World Market is
set up in the gym with food preparation and craft demonstrations. The most popular event is the World Buffet. (Mr. Court points out that every lunchtime at Angell is a world buffet, too, with children bringing familiar food from home.)
Each fall another new cohort of international families arrives at the University of Michigan. Parents will come to Angell School orientation to learn about the English as a Second Language classroom, how the school buses work, how American school kids dress, and other practical needs. "We've been doing this for a long time," Court says. "We're good at this."
[Originally published in August, 2019.]
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