By Lisa Capobianco
Fourth graders at Strong School shook their hips with excitement while dancing the Samba last week to celebrate Brazilian Day, a presentation that has become an annual event there for the last four years.
Fourth grader Jasmine Ozimkoski, who was born and raised in America, led the presentation along with her mother Alessandra Ozimkoski, who was born in Brazil, as they both taught students about all aspects of the Brazilian culture.
“I want her to appreciate being Brazilian as much as she appreciates being American,” said Alessandra, adding that her daughter has visited Brazil before. “Brazil is such a big country—it has so many different things.”
“I love Brazil—it’s such a beautiful place,” added Jasmine, who sang a song in Portuguese, including a one called “Girl de Ipanema.”
From seeing Brazilian money and passports to trying mangos, Brazilian chocolate and acai juice to learning about climate, fourth graders engaged in a variety of activities during the program, as the walks in the gymnasium were decorated with posters highlighting features of Brazil and the Brazilian flag. Students also had an opportunity to meet with a Macaw named Rock, a 13-year-old Brazilian bird, who did a brief demonstration later on by walking on the floor of the gymnasium.
“It felt really cool,” said fourth grader Cara St. John, who was one of many classmates to let Rock stand on her shoulder. “I think it’s really fun we’re learning about the Brazilian culture.”
Besides petting Rock, students had the opportunity to meet a professional coach and Brazilian soccer player, Everson Maciel, who founded the Everson Soccer Academy (ESA), offering a variety of programs to children interested in the sport. ESA uses teaching/coaching methods based on the Brazilian system of playing soccer. The program also featured a demonstration of Capoeria, a Brazilian art form that combines elements of martial arts, dance, music and acrobatics, and Brazilian singer José Paulo, a native of Rio de Janeiro who began his career at the age of 12 performing at local weddings. Paolo, who studied in certified music schools, can sing in all styles of music in not only English and Portuguese, but also in Spanish, Italian and French.
“It’s just amazing how they react to it,” said Jasmine, adding that she loves sharing his part of her culture with classmates every year.
The program ended with a carnival party, led by Jasmine and her mother dressed in a full carnival costume. Carnival is an annual, three-day festival celebrated throughout Brazil, which ends on Fat Tuesday. Students marched and danced the samba while wearing different colored carnival hats and masks during the carnival celebration.
Teachers like Erika Olson said they hope the event helps students gain an “appreciation for the Brazilian culture,” since the program fosters global citizenship. Olson said she enjoys seeing the students become so engaged in the program, as it helps them become more well-rounded citizens.
“I think it’s amazing,” Olson said. “I’ve never seen them so interested before.”
At the end of the day, students were asked to create artwork based on how they see Brazil.” Alessandra said the three most creative pieces, will hang in the Embassy of Brazil, and the winners will also receive a Brazilian book. The Ambassador and Vice Consuls will choose the winning artwork.