Cottle Diversity Club Embraces Cultures of the World

Cottle School children huddled around tables, grabbing colorful markers to decorate their paper crowns. They sat engaged, adding foam hearts or flower stickers, ensuring that their creation was special to them. They giggled to each other and exchanged stories as they periodically snacked on ice-cream cake. The activity was part of the Diversity Club’s first session of 2019. Fourth-grade student Ava and her mother, teacher Maria Bietsch, shared a presentation about Italian traditions.

The Diversity Club at Cottle School began four years ago to celebrate internationalism and embrace diversity as a foundation for building an inclusive school environment. Last year, over 70 members from grades three, four and five participated during both the winter and spring sessions.

“It’s a celebration of all cultures,” said teacher and club organizer Mariel Ferguson. “Our cultures all need to be equally respected. We need to see our differences to see our similarities. Learning this at a young age will help them to shape their generation.”

Throughout the year, parents from different backgrounds are invited to the club to share their heritage. Visitors have come from backgrounds including Ukraine, Bermuda, South Africa, Singapore, Eritrea and Iran. They often deliver a presentation about their country, then tie in an activity and snack from their homeland. Frequently, presenters will also relate their presentations to the students’ academic curriculum through discussions about geography, economy or history.

Over the past few months, the Diversity Club has welcomed many guests. Students learned how to make Japanese origami, sampled delicious treats from the Philippines, and learned Brazilian Zumba moves. They also made their own traditional Indonesian shadow puppets and decorated paper mosques while learning about Syria.

Children whose parents visited the Diversity Club were thrilled to share their culture with classmates. “People who live in Tuckahoe are passionate about the world and want to share that with their children,” said Ms. Ferguson. “I hope that the students love learning about what makes them unique, where they fit into the world and how they can grow.”

The club also aims to inspire understanding and kindness throughout William E. Cottle School. Last spring, its members held an assembly to showcase what they had learned throughout the year. The students highlighted the five most important facts from each country and performed dances they had memorized, including those from Ireland and New Zealand. The assembly also featured a montage of photos and videos that had been captured throughout the sessions.