"What shall I wear for the Easter Parade?
A dress that’s the color of marmalade
With a border embroidered in light blue cornflowers
Like the edge of a meadow after spring shower
And a matching hat round as a top you can spin
And elastic to hold it on under my chin
And brand-new shoes whiter than newly-poured cream
With heart-shaped, golden buckles that gleam;
And I’ll carry a small purse of butterfly blue
With a penny for me and a penny for you
To buy us both glasses of cold lemonade
When we walk, hand in hand, in the Easter Parade."
By William Jay Smith
I witnessed a unique parade at Kimball Elementary School in Seattle last Friday, the day before Spring Break officially started. Timing-wise it could have been an Easter parade, but in actuality it was a Small, Small World Parade. I was subbing in a second grade classroom that afternoon and we were busy learning about all sorts of eggs (robin, emu, dinosaur, etc) and creating an egg book I found on Enchanted Learning. I even showed the children how to blow eggs which could be kept forever. In the midst of the activity, parade music blared over the loudspeaker and the children jumped up screaming "Parade
They rushed to the back of the class which was open to all of the other 2nd grade classes and lined up along one side, with ill concealed anticipation. We were about to witness an international spectacle, part of the Story Path social studies curriculum which Kimball first graders had made their own.
With joyful music as its precursor, over seventy first graders appeared from around a corner, processing, one after the other throughout the school, in time to the music. The second graders were thrilled as they shouted encouragement , no doubt also reliving their own first grade experience the year before.
In preparation for this big day, students from all three first grade rooms had paired up to learn about the country of their choice. On parade day, one student carried a colorful banner representing the chosen country while his/her partner carried an ethnic "float", a small cardboard box decorated with items pertaining to that country . Many children were dressed in ethnic garb, creating a visual delight which surely would long be remembered. On and on they came, proudly carrying the fruits of their labor. More than thirty countries were represented this day, and I was amazed at the amount of prior classroom learning that must have taken place for this event.
Since it was so close to Easter I couldn't help but make a comparison to our country's first Easter Parade in New York City in the mid 1800s. That annual secular parade was a way for the exclusively white upper crust of the time to show off their new outfits and hats. Later, in 1948, a popular movie entitled Easter Parade, starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, was released, and Irving Berlin's song about the parade became an instant hit. To this day most people know the first line - In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, you'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade. In my opinion it was divisive. Those that "belonged" and those that didn't. The "haves" and the "have nots". Naturally as our country has evolved so has that traditional parade. Now, according to Newstimes.com hundreds of people from around the world gather to show off their holiday finery, including some that are zany and outlandish. According to the article it is now "really a leisurely stroll up and down Fifth Avenue between 49th and 57th street. It starts in the morning and continues into the late afternoon. . . This year's parade also features activists from the gay community. Two different groups plan to meet in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral to honor those who lost their lives because of prejudice."
We keep hearing about how dismal our educational ranking is with the rest of the world, but what I saw last Friday displayed the best of what America has to offer. We are teaching our children to care and value those of different ethnicities. To be inclusive rather than exclusive. In a shrinking world, this value is one of our strengths. Like another old popular song proclaims, 'It's a small world after all."
Happy Easter to ALL Americans, regardless of their roots, cultural, social or financial status.