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Shahala, also known as Liz Butler of Madison, belly dances in the cafeteria of Chestnut Grove Elementary during lunch for Charlotte Collins' first grade class.
DAILY Photo by Emily Saunders

Chestnut Grove students get taste of Egypt

By Bayne Hughes
DAILY Education Writer

hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

Second-grader Tobias Miller sipped the burnt-orange-colored juice and grimaced.

"That Egyptian drink is not good," he said of the mango juice.

The juice may have been the only thing Tobias and his Chestnut Grove Elementary School classmates didn't enjoy Wednesday during a morning of laughter, fun and learning.

The Chestnut Grove PTA sponsored a "trip" to Egypt, giving the students a taste of Egyptian food and culture during the two-hour project.

PTA President Candace Gilchrist said her group annually conducts a mock airplane trip to a different country. Last year, it was Mexico.

The students began the morning entering a mock airplane on the school's theater stage. One student was so excited he thought he was actually going to Egypt.

After getting flight instructions from PTA moms Belinda Rossi and Sandy Adams, including use of seat belts and oxygen bags, the "flight" took off. It included an Egyptian cookie, water and an in-flight movie about Egypt.

Upon arrival, each student received an Egyptian stamp added to a mock passport. The students then went on a treasure hunt, sifting through sand as an archaeologist does to find artifacts.

The fun continued as students moved to the art station, where they drew hieroglyphics and other Egyptian symbols on a small pyramid. A special guest, Hanan Hakam, wrote each child's name in Arabic on a frame for a photo of the child.

The highlight for students, however, may have been turning their teacher into a mummy. The children laughed and squealed as they wrapped long strips of white gauze material around their teacher.

The final station was a candlelight dinner at an Egyptian restaurant. The meal featured fava beans, a Maria cookie, a ghraybeh cookie, pita bread and, of course, the mango juice.

"The food kind of tastes like taco stuff," Tobias said.

A belly dancer, Shahala, also known as Liz Butler, entertained students during lunch in the cafeteria.

Second-grade teacher Gayle Fowler said the morning fun helped emphasize a unit she taught on Egypt. Her class read a book on ancient Egypt. Students also learned about the work of scientists and archaeologists in Egypt.

She said she heard several students comment about how they remembered certain things from the lessons.

"This is so great because it gives them experience with a culture they might not ever come in contract with or visit," Fowler said.

Fowler said the food tasting was particularly memorable.

"They learned today that not all food tastes like American food," Fowler said. "You should have seen the looks on their faces when they ate the cookie on the plane. They expected it to be sweet, and it wasn't."

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