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The International Children's Festival, presented by Meridian International Center Educational Outreach Programs, is an interactive and educational fair that brings the community together with the diplomatic corps of Washington, D.C. Diplomatic embassies host booths about their country and culture intended to introduce children and their families to world geography, dress, and traditions through displays and activities.
In addition to embassy-sponsored booths, the festival offers international dance and music performances, as well as opportunities to sample international cuisine. In 2009, Michelle Fenty, wife of DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, supported the festival by serving as Honorary Patron of the event.
The International Children's Festival is held every May and is located in Meridian's historic mansions.
Embassies host booths at the Festival, allowing visitors to experience another culture. Toward this goal, embassies bring artifacts, displays, and activities about their country and culture.
Food and drink samples are present at each booth, as well as crafts and educational activities designed to engage attendees and a two-way cultural exchange between the embassy staff and the participating families. Booth activities have included trying on traditional Indonesian dress, stamping Kente cloth (Ghana), folding origami (Japan), writing hieroglyphics (Egypt), creating Carnival masks (Brazil), exploring Mexican children's toys and more. Cultural representatives and embassy staff from each country are present to answer questions and interact with attendees.
Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Brazil, China, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Zambia, as well as representation from the United Nations.
In addition to the interactive booths sponsored by embassies, the Festival exhibits dance performances from local and international artists. These performances showcase cultural styles from around the world.
The International Children's Festival is a part of Meridian's educational outreach initiatives -- the flagship of which is the International Classroom, currently in its 19th year of bringing the world into District of Columbia Public School classrooms. The International Classroom trains volunteers from the international community to present interactive lessons on their home country to students in grades 2-12. Presentations are organized by Meridian in response to a high demand from DC public school teachers, and Meridian staff works closely with volunteers to ensure that presentations are tailored to each audience based on grade level. In the 2007-2008 school year, International Classroom worked with over 100 volunteers from 50 countries and reached over 2,500 students.
International Classroom also offers teachers other resources to help them include more international education in their curricula. Meridian's 50+ Culture Boxes contain items from a specific country or region that teachers can use as hands-on learning tools to help students make a tangible connection to other parts of the world.
International Classroom also offers a professional development workshop, Passports to the World, for DC teachers each Fall on how to internationalize their curricula while meeting current Standards of Learning. These workshops help teachers discover new methods of incorporating international education across the curricula. Over the course of six afternoons, teachers will travel to five different continents, exploring themes, ideas, and techniques to use in the classroom. Working in cooperation with Peace Corps: World Wise Schools and the National Geographic Society Education Foundation, teachers also earn credits toward recertification.