International Children's Festival

The International Children’s Festival, presented by Meridian International Center Educational Outreach Programs, is an interactive and educational fair that brings the community together with the diplomatic corps of Washington, D.C. Diplomatic embassies host booths about their country and culture intended to introduce children and their families to world geography, dress, and traditions through displays and activities.
Playing with Mexican toys at the 2008 International Children's Festival
In addition to embassy-sponsored booths, the festival offers international dance and music performances, as well as opportunities to sample international cuisine. In 2009, Michelle Fenty, wife of DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, supported the festival by serving as Honorary Patron of the event.

The International Children’s Festival is held every May and is located in Meridian’s historic mansions.

Description

The Embassy of Egypt's booth
Embassies host booths at the Festival, allowing visitors to experience another culture. Toward this goal, embassies bring artifacts, displays, and activities about their country and culture.
Children learn about Brazil's Carnival celebrations while decorating masks
Food and drink samples are present at each booth, as well as crafts and educational activities designed to engage attendees and a two-way cultural exchange between the embassy staff and the participating families. Booth activities have included trying on traditional Indonesian dress, stamping Kente cloth (Ghana), folding origami (Japan), writing hieroglyphics (Egypt), creating Carnival masks (Brazil), exploring Mexican children's toys and more. Cultural representatives and embassy staff from each country are present to answer questions and interact with attendees.

Participating Embassies 2010

Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Brazil, China, El Salvador, Fiji, France, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Zambia, as well as representation from the United Nations.

Performances

In addition to the interactive booths sponsored by embassies, the Festival exhibits dance performances from local and international artists. These performances showcase cultural styles from around the world.

Performances for 2010

India's Bhangra Dancers from the 2008 Festival
  • Stepping Africa Geography Dance, USA- Paul Public Charter School, DC
  • Maculele & Capoeira Martial Arts Dance, Brazil- ABADA-CAPOEIRA
  • Traditional Dance, Argentina- Escuela Argentina, DC
  • Irish Dance, Ireland- The O'Neill-James School of Irish Dance
  • Belly Dance, Middle Eastern Dance- Joy of Motion
  • African Drumming, Africa- Kofi Dennis
  • Chaynanm Haitian Percussion Band
  • A.H. Dance Company
  • Raqs Jameel Bellydancing
  • Nomad Dancers
  • Halau O'Aulani Hula Dancing
  • Balaji Music Academy Indian Dance
  • Fairfax Chinese Dance Troupe
  • Washington DC Turkish Folkdance Troupe

Other Educational Outreach Programs

International Classroom

Students posing after a Costa Rica presentation
The International Children’s Festival is a part of Meridian’s educational outreach initiatives — the flagship of which is the International Classroom, currently in its 19th year of bringing the world into District of Columbia Public School classrooms. The International Classroom trains volunteers from the international community to present interactive lessons on their home country to students in grades 2-12. Presentations are organized by Meridian in response to a high demand from DC public school teachers, and Meridian staff works closely with volunteers to ensure that presentations are tailored to each audience based on grade level. In the 2007-2008 school year, International Classroom worked with over 100 volunteers from 50 countries and reached over
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