Taste of West Alex: A Celebration of Culture, Cuisine and Community

At Guidepost at West Alex in Alexandria, Virginia, families and children connected over food, celebrating their cultural diversity, and learning about the importance of global citizenship.

On Saturday, June 3, nearly 200 children, parents and staff members attended Guidepost at West Alex’s Taste of West Alex event – a beautiful celebration of culture, cuisine and community. Attendees ‘traveled’ to the home countries of Guidepost at West Alex families via table exhibits, enjoyed signature dishes and treats from around the world, and interactively learned about the customs, traditions, and celebrations of other countries.

“There’s such a rich cultural experience happening on our campus on a regular basis,” explained Head of School, Mary Akatu-Speakman. “We’ve loved having families sharing their cultural traditions in individual classrooms throughout the school year. I thought, ‘What if we gathered as a school community to share and celebrate the many cultures that are represented here?’”

And so, the idea behind the Taste of West Alex event was born. This event was created to provide a unique opportunity for families and children to connect over food, celebrate their cultural diversity, and learn about the importance of global citizenship, a fundamental value that Maria Montessori believed was crucial to fostering a peaceful and harmonious world.

Cuisine from Around the World

In the weeks leading up to the Taste of West Alex event, all Guidepost at West Alex families were invited to bring a dish for up to 12 people that represented their culture. Attendees enjoyed a diverse menu that included tangy injera, pupusas, cannoli, pinsa bianca con pomodori, jollof, samosas, enchilada potosinas, coxinha, brigadeiros, dumplings, Jamaican curry, inari sushi, and many other delectable international dishes.

Informative Country Tables

Parents also volunteered to set up Country Tables that represented their home countries. The tables were arranged around the perimeter of the Gross Motor Room, and offered visual representations of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Mongolia, and Brazil. Adorned with everything from maps, flags, and cultural tapestries, to treats, toys, and jewelry, many of the tables also provided details on the cultural practices, customs, and traditions associated with each country. Guests, young and old alike, enjoyed visiting the tables and learning more about the unique aspects of each country.

Developing Global Citizens

In addition to providing an opportunity for families to enjoy delicious international fare and learn about different cultures, the Taste of West Alex event was designed to encourage respect for the customs and traditions of others. Maria Montessori believed that all children should be exposed to different cultures and ways of life to expand their understanding of the world.

“We all have some aspects of our own culture that we bring into our classrooms and our school community,” said Mary. “I think it’s important that both children and parents have opportunities like this to really share of themselves in ways that they feel represent them and their stories."

Upon entering the event space, children had the option of picking up a pretend passport and then visiting as many countries (i.e. Country Tables) as they could. When they visited a country, they got a stamp in their passport, and the older children would write or draw a picture of something they learned. The children were also provided with an illustrated sheet of flags for the countries that were represented at each table. They were encouraged to identify as many of the countries as possible and to use colored pencils to color the flags.

A Capoeira Dance Presentation

As the event was coming to a close, guests enjoyed an exciting presentation on the Brazilian capoeira, an artform which is a blend of martial arts, dance, and music. The presenters explained the origins of capoeira and how it is used in Brazilian culture. And then, with grace and strength, they performed a capoeira dance accompanied by the rhythmic beats of a conga and the melody of a berimbau. The children were excited to watch and also inspired to do some dancing of their own after the performance.

At Guidepost at West Alex, there’s already a lot of talk and excitement about next year's Taste of West Alex event! “It truly was something special,” said Mary. “In addition to our current families, we had twelve families attend as part of an Open House. So for us to see families at our campus – some new, some old, some prospective families – all getting together around food, culture, music and dance was such a beautiful display of community.”

As Maria Montessori emphasized, developing a love of humanity is a necessary part of creating a better world. From learning about the grand, historical achievements of people around the world, to celebrating the rich variety of customs that exist, at Guidepost Montessori, we take pride in organizing events like this to help cultivate a deep sense of benevolence and global citizenship. The Taste of West Alex event was an exceptional example of a school that showcased and celebrated the richness of cultural diversity in the West Alexandria community through food and fun festivities. And just like the families in the West Alex community, we can’t wait to see what they do next year!