Sharing tradition at Heritage

There are many ways one can say hello around the world.

That's what students at Heritage Montessori School in Huntington Beach told their parents and teachers Friday during a presentation that revealed their families' roots.

They entered the room in traditional clothes from their countries and said hello in Vietnamese, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Arabic. Then they gave pieces of information to the guests about each country, like how to say, "welcome" and "we're all one," and then they sang a song.

Every year, Rehana Eaton, who teaches the second, third and fourth grades at Heritage does something different with her students. The point of each year's project is to teach the students something about the world beyond their communities.

The students were asked to go on a journey to learn about their ancestors, ask Grandma or Grandpa, find pictures and learn their families' stories.

"I learned things that I didn't know," Jason Riznis said.

Riznis, for example, didn't know that his mother is from Moldova, Russia. Riznis, 8, also didn't know that some parts of Russia have unique traditional dresses and jewelry.

Although the presentation took less than an hour, preparation took longer. Each student created a board with pictures of their families, notes on where they came from and pictures of artifacts and maps of the countries. They were also asked to bring a traditional dish to share.

In class, they made passports and took virtual trips to their families' countries and others around the world.

Noah Nashed didn't know that his father served as a dentist in the Egyptian military.

Nashed, 8, always knew his family emigrated from Egypt, but what he learned through his school project made him feel good and proud, he said.

Dressed in a bright yellow-and-gold dress called Ao Dai, Noether Nguyen, 8, stood tall and proud next to her board.

Every time a guest came by her board, she made sure to tell them about her family's Vietnamese heritage. She showed Vietnamese money and the red flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. She also showed a picture of her parents' wedding in Vietnam.

Next year, Eaton plans to get into a new space with her students — for a journey to other planets, that is.

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