Willimantic, Conn. — The Betty R. Tipton Room at Eastern Connecticut State University was transformed into a frenzy of Irish culture on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, as more than 250 schoolchildren from Willimantic converged on the university for the annual Arts and Culture Day, hosted by the Center for Community Engagement (CCE).
Traditional Irish music played in the background as children enjoyed Irish step dancing, leprechaun arts and crafts and other educational activities, such as learning about energy sustainability in Ireland. United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut donated age-appropriate books about Ireland to all the children, and Eastern’s food service provider Chartwells provided Irish soda bread.
“It’s important for the kids to learn about different cultures because we’re such a culturally diverse town,” said Rebecca Russell, a student leader with the CCE who helped organize the event. “I love having them here on campus, they have so much fun.”
Eastern’s Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) hosted a display and crossword puzzle activity about peat and sustainability in Ireland. Peat briquettes, which are composed of compressed decayed vegetation, are a common heating source in Ireland and other wetland regions.
“It’s exciting to be involved with the youth, letting them know about different countries and how they use energy,” said Laura Miller, energy technical specialist with the ISE. Miller has family in Ireland and explained that the country also utilizes a lot of wind energy.
The children also learned about the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the New Testament that was produced in Ireland, Scotland and England. With markers and crayons, children drew their own illuminated manuscripts.
Arts and Culture Days in the past have focused on Russia, Puerto Rico, Africa and India. “The kids get to learn about something totally new and foreign to them,” said Emily Cameron ’15, Eastern alumna and current AmeriCorps VISTA with the CCE. “It’s a lot of fun!”
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