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New Traditions – IPA’s Culture Week Celebrates World Cultures

Traditions are an important part of ISLAND PACIFIC ACADEMY’s school culture and history. May Day, La Kupuna, Multicultural Performance, Ho’ike Night – these long-standing traditions are looked forward to with excitement and anticipation by our students and faculty every year. This February 7-11, IPA’s Secondary students participated in what hopefully will become a new tradition on campus – Culture Week.

“Culture Week is a special week where we can dedicate time to learn about and appreciate all the different cultures represented here at IPA,” shares Ruby May Fernandez, Student Activities Coordinator and organizer of the event. “IPA is such a diverse school, and that should be acknowledged and celebrated.”

The Secondary Executive Council and Middle School Student Government were very involved in helping to organize and run some of the many activities that took place during the week, including a Kahoot challenge on different cultural dishes, Spanish bingo, and the Filipino tinikling dance.

The main focus of this inaugural Culture Week was on the cultures surrounding the three languages offered in IPA’s world language program – Spanish, Japanese, and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi. In creating and organizing the different activities, Fernandez wanted to make the most of the personal cultural knowledge and talents of the world language faculty and students.

Maestra Laura Angel Guzman and her Middle school Spanish students learned about the history of piñatas and their place in Spanish and Mexican culture, and then constructed, decorated, and filled their own piñatas, which were used in the piñata game on the first day of the week. She and her family also catered a Mexican lunch for the students through their Mexican restaurant, La Cocina de Abuelita, with a portion of the proceeds going to support Spring Spirit Week.

Tokuda Sensei and her Grade 8 Japanese class created a video origami tutorial shared with all the Secondary classes on how to fold “lai see”, the traditional Chinese red envelopes, which are filled with money during the new year celebrations. She also led a group of students and faculty in a traditional Japanese Bon Dance for one of the week’s events.

One of the highlights of the week was the student-led podcast during a virtual Town Hall in which faculty and staff members, Sabine Yamamura, Maciej Dul, and Aparna Cheerath talked with the students about their experiences in moving to America from Switzerland, Poland, and India (via Singapore and Australia), respectively. The three answered questions from Grade 8 podcast hosts Mila Dul ‘26 and Jacky Arvman ‘26 about the many differences and similarities they’ve noticed between the different cultures. And many of the faculty proudly dressed in the traditional attire of their culture on one of the days during the week.

In honor of Black History Month, which takes place every February, Grade 6 student Khyleigh Clayton ‘28 gave a presentation in a virtual Town Hall about why February was selected as the month to celebrate the history, culture, and contributions of African Americans. And Dr. Carolyn Schaab, Upper school science faculty, and her students created a bulletin board highlighting many of the African American scientists who have made lasting contributions to their fields.

Senior Kristin Chun ʻ22 and the Majestic Culture and the Arts Association, to which she belongs, performed a traditional Chinese lion dance for the Elementary and Secondary students in the culminating event celebrating the lunar new year. Students, faculty, and staff fed the lion the “lai see” they created during the week for good luck in the new year.

Without a doubt, this inaugural event was a success. “After Culture Week, we sent the students a survey to get their feedback, and the overwhelming response from them was that they want to have this event every year!”, shares Fernandez. And with that resounding endorsement, she is already thinking about how they can expand the celebrations and activities to include other cultures for next year.

Mahalo, Gracias, Salamat, Danke, Grazie, Merci, cảm ơn, ありがとう, Спасибо, Shukran, Tak, 謝謝 , Fa`afetai, Ευχαριστώ πολύ


Spanish students making pinata
Spanish students make their own piñatas.
Students hitting piñatas.
Middle school students bash open piñatas during a celebration of Mexican culture.
Teacher serving food
Maestra Laura hands out Mexican bowls during Culture Week.
Japanese students with origami
Japanese students make origami lucky charms for setsuban.
Students learning Bon dance
Tokuda Sensei teaches students and faculty the art of the Bon dance.
Teachers doing a podcast
Mr. Dul, Ms. Aparna, and Ms. Sabine take questions during the teacher podcast.
Faculty in cultural attire.
Faculty dressed in the traditional attire of their culture.
Students doing tinikling dance
Students learn the traditional Filipino tinikling dance.
Student feeding lion during lion dance
An Elementary student feeds the lion “lai-see” during the lion dance for the lunar new year.
Student feeding lion during lion dance
An Secondary student receives a good luck banner from the lion for the lunar new year.