This article by Carol Buchanan appeared in The St Croix Source.
At Eulalie Rivera Elementary School in Grove Place the main topics of study Monday were Virgin Islands history, tradition and culture. The classes in the V.I. History program were educational and fun with hands-on experiences.
Around 385 students from kindergarten through the sixth grade played old-fashioned games, competed in a V.I. History Quiz Bowl, participated in workshops and more.
“I had a lot of fun today,” said sixth-grader Aliyah Hutchinson. “It’s different than classwork. It’s fun to see how artists do things.”
Eulalie Rivera Principal Joanna Brow said the school has held a V.I. History Month program for more than 15 years. Brow said they program enriches the students’ awareness of their history and culture and allows them to exhibit a certain pride in their culture.
“We need to hold on to our culture,” Brow said. “As educators it’s up to us to keep it alive. It’s great that the parents, culture bearers and teachers come together for the children,” Brow said. She added they had a lot of volunteers helping out.
Verlyn Martin-James, coordinator of the V.I. History Month program and second-grade teacher, said they wanted the students to be more involved so they made a few changes this year. She said in the past they had the presenters set up tables in the cafeteria and the students watched the demonstrations. This year they had the culture bearers go to classrooms and get the children actively involved.
Local culture bearer Asta Williams, who is in her 70s, told the kindergartener stories and then the students did artwork using shells and beads.
Clint Ferris showed the first-grader how to make ice cream and they sampled the finished product.
Maria Styles taught tie-dyeing to the second graders. She showed the youngsters the red annatto seed found in the Caribbean and Latin America used as a coloring and a flavoring agent in seasoning like Puerto Rican sazon. She said the color from the seed is more earth-toned and less intense than commercial dyes.
The third-graders made Johnny cake under the direction of Bernard Vanterpool.
Wayne “Bully” Petersen in a signature straw hat and dungarees told the fourth-grade students stories and sang and played cultural music.
Sharon Browne showed the fifth-grade students how to prepare Danish red grout, a tapioca and guava dish served with cream. They also made their own pates.
Storyteller Donna Samuel made art with shells and beads with the sixth-grade students and told stories.
Daniel Francois, music teacher and band director, got together a little scratch band with school band members. The young musicians played conga drums, bongos, guitar and scratch pipe. Conga player Leah Cruzado said she was happy playing conga drums and carrying on the tradition.
Eulalie Rivera Elementary School Quadrille Dancers took center stage performing for the other students gathered in the cafeteria. Dancer Amy Martial, 10, said she hopes to carry on the tradition of dance.
“Dancing quadrille is amazing to me. I have to practice a lot,” Martial said.
Akayla Thurland, 9, said the best part of her day was being up on stage and dancing the quadrille.
The students did Karaoke with “Let it Go” from the Disney movie Frozen, the favorite choice of the girls. There was a Virgin Islands and African History presentation with fast-paced African drumming and dancing.
Calypsonian Denis “Pumpa” Liburd made a special surprise appearance at the close of the day.
Martin-James said, “As a U.S. territory we get caught up in what’s going on in the states and forget about what’s important here. The children need to know their roots and pass traditions on for generations to come.”