Cultural arts on display at Wolfle Elementary

 - Shaun Scott/Staff Photo
— image credit: Shaun Scott/Staff Photo

KINGSTON — A unique cultural exchange took place Monday morning at Wolfle Elementary School, blending ancient art with fresh, young minds.

The result was a creation all its own: an understanding and admiration for another way of life.

“We want our students to appreciate different cultures and heritages. We want students to respect each others traditions and values,” principal Ben Degnin said, welcoming artists from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe to the first annual Wolfle Elementary Cultural Arts Day celebration.

“About 20 percent of our students here are from the S’Klallam Tribe. We want to do everything we can to keep their everyday culture alive,” he said. “It also helps non-Native kids understand the students they go to school with.”

Following an schoolwide assembly to kick off the festivities, 30 minute breakout sessions took place covering topics from carving, traditional dancing, traditional foods and plants, weaving, storytelling and drum making. Each student attended four of the six sessions offered.

Mary Jones, who was in charge of the traditional foods and plants portion of the event, said she hoped students learned lasting lessons about the varieties of native plants.

“I would like students to get a good knowledge of the plants surrounding them,” she said. “Even kids from kindergarten through sixth grade, we want them to see a plant and be able to explain the plant in detail to others.”

One of the most popular sessions of the day was the drum making station. It was led by Alex Turtle, who has been creating drums almost his entire life.

“My grandpa taught me to make drums when I was 4 or 5 years old,” he said. “I hope all kids learn how to work with their hands. It’s so important. It’s important to understand what you’re building.”

Volunteer Linda Middlebrook was instrumental in making the dream of having cultural arts day at Wolfle Elementary a reality. Middlebrook said she was grateful to have nearly a dozen Port Gamble artists in attendance teaching culture and art at the same time to Wolfle Elementary students.

“I really appreciate what they did today. It was a wonderful experience for our students,” she said. “It was awesome. The committee that helped put all of this together did a great job. It was a total team effort.”

Middlebrook said she hopes the artists who contributed to the festivities return to the school in the future, sharing their expertise with Wolfle students once again.

“It’s great for students to be exposed to art,” she said. “In the future we hope to invite many of these artisans into the classroom again.”

Students seemed to enjoy the full slate of activities, too, Middlebrook said.

“Each session was unique. There was always something special to share at each station,” she said. “Students enjoyed each station equally.”

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