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Industrial students celebrate Texas heritage, food

By KBell
June 2, 2012 at 1:02 a.m.

Jenna Gerdes and Amy Hessler hang out with their stuffed animals at the girls' Africa presentation at the Texas Heritage Festival and Taste of Texas Food. The girls said they chose to learn more about Africa after seeing last year's display on the country.

GROUPS THAT MIGRATED TO TEXAS

• Italians

• Spanish

• Latin Americans

• English

• Afro-Americans

• French

• Belgians

• Swiss

• Swedish

• Norwegians

• Wendish

• Polish

• Danish

• Germans

• Czech and Slovak

• Syrian and Lebanese

• Greeks

Source: LoneStarGenealogy.com

In the corner of the room stood a blonde in a blue dress.

"You should have seen me this morning. I woke up with bed head," the boy's voice from under the messy wig said.

Jake Henry, 12, was in full character in the Industrial Junior High School cafeteria. That morning, the seventh-grader was a Czechoslovakian woman in the late 1800s.

Surrounding him were Germans, Africans, Irish and all the other nationalities that migrated to Texas in the 19th century.

They, and the rest of the school, were at the Fourth Annual Texas Heritage Festival and Taste of Texas Food at Industrial Junior High.

"I just like history ... I had a lot of fun doing this," Jake almost didn't have to say.

While his three friends jammed out to a playlist of Czechoslovakian music, Jake explained some of what his team learned during the project. For example, the united country of Czechoslovakia divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, he said. The team learned about national holidays, food, clothing and customs.

"Our assignment was to bring back the culture in a posterboard," Jake said in front of the country's red, white and blue flag.

Next to the Czechoslovakian guys - and pseudo-gal - was a jungle of animal print. These four seventh-grade girls had brought back African culture with gusto, complete with stuffed cheetahs, elephants and other animals.

"It's something fun, and you learn a lot of interesting stuff," 13-year-old Amy Hessler said about the festival. "We really wanted to do Africa from the beginning because the Africa (project) last year was really neat."

The heritage festival is becoming a tradition all incoming seventh-graders look forward to, students said. Besides the opportunity to do a creative group project, the festival offers an excuse to taste-test some exotic and some not-so-exotic foods.

Students were encouraged to bring their favorite eats, which included deer and wild hog chili, grape leaves, Irish potato stew, German chocolate cake and macaroni and cheese.

Amy's project teammate, Jenna Gerdes, 12, brought her an age-old family food.

"My great-grandma lived 100 years, and she had a recipe for this peach cobbler," she said.

As for those portraying Czechoslovakian migrants, their choice of country and food was simple.

"We either had to do Germany or Czechoslovakia because my friend Dylan makes some really good sausage," Jake said.

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