Students at Hot Springs Elementary School were transported to the other side of the world last Tuesday, when the Cultural Kaleidoscope program came to town.
For most of the afternoon, students of of all grade levels were educated about Ukraine's culture and history through a dynamic and interactive program.
Sergei Shapoval, a Ukrainian native, makes his living traveling throughout the United States teaching students about other cultures with Cultural Kaleidoscope.
Shapoval has a master's degree in music education from the Gnessin Pedagogical Institute in Moscow. He is well trained in over a dozen instruments.
In the program, students were treated to myriad instrument performances including: flutes, horns, strings, accordions and a friction drum known as a Buhay which is operated by pulling on wet horsehair in the center of the drum. All the instruments put on display for students were part of traditional Ukrainian music.
Students were also shown videos of traditional Ukrainian dances and some audience members were brought to the front of the gym to demonstrate the performance.
Shopoval also educated students on cultural influences they experience from Ukraine. Ukraine is known as the bread-basket of the Eurasian continent. Their flag consists of a single yellow stripe below a blue stripe. The yellow symbolizes the grain fields across the countryside while the blue symbolizes the sky. The first wheat brought to North America was from Ukraine.
Easter eggs are also a tradition started in Ukraine. Ornate eggs have been prized gifts in Ukraine for hundreds of years. They symbolized positive power and life. When the country was converted to Christianity, the Church folded the tradition into Easter celebrations, as Easter is also a celebration of life and renewal.
Even 'Carol of the Bells', now thought of as a Christmas time staple has origins in Ukraine. It is based on Ukrainian folk songs celebrating the new year and the coming of spring.
Shopoval also explained some of Ukraine's rich history along with some brief comparisons between lifestyle, education and housing in Ukraine and the United States.
Marggie Tritt, Program Coordinator for Cultural Kaleidoscope, said this about the program, "what we hope to accomplish with our program, is that [students] will understand that all people, all over the world are basically the same, but there are differences, and those differences we call cultural differences, and they're not a matter of right and wrong, they are just different."
Cultural Kaleidoscope has been educating students about world cultures since 1991. They have visited Hot Springs several times. In the past, the program has offered courses on a verity of countries including: Russia, Ukraine, Australia, Germany and Ireland.
The program in Hot Springs was made possible by two funding sources. The South Dakota Arts council funded half of the cost for the program. The other half was provided by funds from the Kid's Educational Enrichment Fund, or KEEF. KEEF raises funds every year by selling World's Finest Chocolates and Yankee Candles. KEEF allows the schools to fund a variety of programs relating to art and culture.