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Students get colorful lesson in culture

Elementary school students were privy to a whirlwind of activity at the Cheney Middle School on Monday afternoon, as the Learning Bank brought kids from all three area school districts (Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead) there for a colorful lesson in culture.

Leading the lesson was Ukrainian Kaleidoscope, a presentation group sponsored by the Cultural Kaleidoscope Program out of Kansas City, Mo. Performer and teacher Sergei Shapoval, who was born in the city of Krivoi Rog, begins the presentation with the traditional ceremony of bread and salt, and then leads students in an interactive performance filled with music, Ukrainian language and customs, and much more.

Its different from most things they are going to see at an assembly, Shapoval, who is a touring artist for the Missouri Arts Council and was once an artistic director for a newspaper in his hometown in the Ukraine, said. They get to be a part of it, and I think they enjoy it more for that reason. They remember this for a long time. I recently did a presentation in Kansas to a high school, and one of the girls who is a junior now said she remembered seeing me when she was in first grade.

Through Shapovals program, the students, in this case second-graders, learn about the culture in an area that is considered to be the Breadbasket of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Shapoval began the presentation shortly after the Soviet Union broke apart, with the Ukraine its largest producer in farming, mining and other industrial wares.

The newly independent country has its own language, customs and one of the highest literacy rates in the world, Shapoval said.

In all, Shapoval has been performing this routine for more than 15 years, covering a seven state area that includes North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas.

Hes absolutely fantastic, Gene Okerlund, director of the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Learning Bank, said. The kids eat it up.