Pre-K class discovers state’s flavors, wildlife

Tyler McGee, 4, of Daphne Griffin’s class at Midway Elementary School, eyed an alligator foot that Mike Beaver, of Backwoodz Outdoorz, brought to the school Friday.

“It’s dangerous,” the pre-kindergarten student said as other students gathered around him to get a closer look.

The showcase of an alligator foot, live crawfish and turtles was just one aspect of Louisiana Culture Day, held for all pre-K students.

The event, which also featured Louisiana food and storytelling, was the end of a five-week lesson on Louisiana culture during which time the students learned about the wetlands, woodlands, music, food, culture and sea life, Griffin said.

Students in each of the seven pre-K classes rotated stations, where students got a taste of red beans and rice, jambalaya, fish po-boys, king cake and beignets, Griffin said.

“It just makes it real,” Griffin said of the event.

“Some of these kids have never seem a live crawfish,” paraprofessional Christie Spinks said. “Some have never eaten a po-boy.”

The school has been hosting the event for years although the event has only grown to this magnitude within the past two years, Griffin said.

The event allows the students to touch, taste and smell Louisiana, something they can’t get from just reading books about their home state.

“They see it in books but they can actually see some of the things we learn about,” Griffin said.

Beaver agreed.

“It brings our culture to them,” he said as he fielded questions from the curious, and sometimes, rambunctious, preschoolers.

“The young ones are always a little bit more entertaining than the older ones,” he said.

Beaver said his goal is to teach youth about Louisiana by bringing wildlife from the state to classrooms.

“This way of life (living off the land) is slowly dying,” Beaver said. He wants youth to know that “instead of just going to the grocery store, you can go out to the woods and the water” to find food.

Volunteer storyteller Gary Sandifer said he hopes to help youths maintain some of the French culture that has been so much a part Louisiana.

“I think we’re losing that,” Sandifer said.

As the event continues to grow, Griffin said she plans to include agriculture next year and make produce, like Louisiana strawberries, available to the students.

She said she also hopes to bring in Cajun music, something she had for students at last year’s event.

For many of the youths, eating the delicious food was nice, but it’s the “creatures” they saw that many said they will remember most about Louisiana Culture Day.

DeAndre Foster, 5, talked of learning about alligators.

“I learned about the snapping turtle,” Grace Wallace, 4, added.