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Students Travel to Europe Without Leaving D.C.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

At 10:15am on Thursday, January 29, 2015, Hardy Middle School was transported from the heart of Washington, D.C. to the heart of Ukraine.

The assembly room was abuzz with anticipation as the Ambassador of Ukraine, Mr. Olexander Motsyk, gave a speech, and then clapped along in unison when a pair of Ukrainian musicians played the flute and violin.

Flags, facts and artifacts from Ukraine lined the hallways and walls of the cafeteria. And then the grand finale: students eating beets. Voluntarily. Happily. Because it was in a lunch made in the Ukrainian tradition, which included beet salad, roast chicken, baked fish, and mashed potatoes

“Oh that fish is good!” exclaimed Sabrina, 6th grader.

This cultural immersion was a celebration of Hardy Middle School’s partnership with the Embassy of Ukraine, through the unique Embassy Adoption Program that pairs classes with embassies. Every school in the district was served Ukrainian meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner as part of “International Food Day”. Worksheets and lessons supplement the meals so that students know they are embarking on an authentic global experience. Three times a year, all schools get a taste of the culture and cuisine of other countries and regions (The next International Food Day will be “La Francophonie Day” with cuisine from France, Haiti, and Quebec).

At Hardy, students gobbled up the meal and shared their thoughts on the assembly.

“My favorite part was learning that in Ukraine they also play music with trumpets! We both play the trumpet, too, and so we’re just like them,” said Melanie, 6th grader, while her trumpet-playing friend, Leena, enjoyed her meal.

“I want to visit one day!” exclaimed Whitney, also in the 6th grade.

A few tables down, Ambassador Motsyk ate his Ukrainian lunch with a few students.

“It is a privilege to share our culture and country with this school in the capital of the United States,” said the Ambassador. “I see smiling and curious faces and it is wonderful.”

And the food tasted authentic, he said.

Ambassador Motsyk is one of the dozens of diplomats and diplomatic staff who generously give their time and knowledge in their partnerships with our schools—while forming a connection with the city and students that live here.

That kind of priceless cultural exchange is central to the Embassy Adoption Program. For 40 years, in partnership with the Washington Performing Arts Society, EAP has given classrooms a true global education— students meet heads of state, sample new and exciting foods, learn and perform traditional dances, songs and plays, and come away with an experience unique to DC and available only to DCPS. Since it began in 1974, more than 45,000 youth have partnered with over 100 embassies representing countries ranging from Australia to Zimbabwe.

At the end of the meal, Hardy students were given the option of exiting two sets of doors. The doors on the left for those who wanted to go directly back to class, and the doors on the right for those who wanted to receive a piece of Ukrainian chocolate. Without pause, students made a huge rush to the chocolate… much like they might in Ukraine.