CMDS ‘Czech it Out! Festival’ Celebrates Memphis in May Honored Country

by Debi Gray

What do mushrooms, bagpipes, and castles have in common? All are part of Czech culture, as CMDS students learned at our Czech it Out! Festival, celebrating this year’s Memphis in May honored country, the Czech Republic.

CMDS Library Teacher Debi Gray

Picking wild mushrooms in the forest is a popular hobby in the Czech Republic, with more than 70% of Czech families enjoying at least one mushroom hunting excursion each year. About one-fifth of the population considers themselves “mushroom fanatics.”

The dudy, or Bohemian bagpipe, is an instrument used in traditional Czech folk music.

The Czech Republic has hundreds beautiful castles and chateaus, including Prague Castle, the world’s largest castle by area.

Celebrating the Memphis in May honored country with a school festival has been a tradition at CMDS for many years. This year, students had fun learning about the Czech Republic with fun, hands-on activities that included sampling Czech food, art, and music; making paper castles; and participating in a “mushroom-picking” relay race.

Global Studies in Focus at CMDS

At CMDS, Global Studies is a teaching focus area that begins in Early Childhood with our GPS (Global Preschool Studies) Encore class. A portion of Library Encore is also dedicated to lessons and activities that continue the focus through a students’ grade school years. Our school has participated in the National Geographic Bee since 2003.

By weaving Global Studies into Library, CMDS aims to give students a foundation in map skills and basic geography, and to encourage their curiosity about other countries and cultures. Map jigsaw puzzles, online map quiz games and geography crossword puzzles are some of the ways that students enjoy building their knowledge.

Reading maps “supports spatial thinking by helping children visualize where objects, places, cities, and countries are in relation to one another,” according to a PBS Parents article.

“Spatial thinking is arguably one the most important ways of thinking for a child to develop as he or she grows,” according to a 2013 National Geographic report quoted in that same article. “A student who has acquired robust spatial thinking skills is at an advantage in our increasingly global and technical society,”

Incorporating Geography at School and at Home

Geography is a topic that intersects with many other subjects, so it’s easy to integrate it into other library activities. For example, when reading folktales to our younger students, I have them look up the country of the story’s origin on a map, and we talk for a minute about where is located. What continent is it part of? Which other countries or oceans does it border? What is the capital city? How far is it from Memphis?

One of the easiest ways for parents to foster geographic literacy is to have maps readily accessible at home and to use them with your child frequently. How about wall maps of the U.S. and of the world for your kids’ bedroom walls, and an atlas, globe or both for the living room? Places, in the U.S. and the world, are constantly referenced in everyday life.

Even a family dinner at a Japanese restaurant, for example, could be an excuse for locating Japan on the map with your child and talking about its location for a moment. Does your child love Greek mythology? Challenge them to look up Greece on the globe, and tell you what sea inspired the myth of Poseidon. Is your child a soccer fan? See if they can locate where exactly in Russia the World Cup will be hosted this summer.

Our children are innately curious about the world. By weaving geography and maps into our everyday conversation with our kids in their elementary school years, we can nurture that curiosity, and help lay a foundation of skills that will serve them well throughout the rest of their education.

Christ Methodist Day School first opened its doors in 1958 to 75 kindergarten students. Since then, CMDS has stayed true to its Christian elementary school roots while continuing to thrive as one of the best private schools in Memphis. We encourage you to come see why we are the primary choice for so many Memphis families.


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