The schools in Belén de Umbría had one of the biggest weeks of the school year with their annual parade and science fair. Students in 1st through 10th grade participated in the parade while 11th graders worked very hard on the science fair, which was actually a business fair.
The parade took place on a Wednesday afternoon. The theme was festivals from different regions of Colombia. Students were given the day off school to get into their costumes and make final preparations. They had been working for several weeks up until the very start of the parade practicing dances and putting together banners. It was a great joy to see all their hard work come to fruition as the parade wound through the streets of Belén.
All were very colorful and enjoyable to watch. The younger students were at the beginning of the parade and were followed by proud parents snapping pictures along the route.
The first festival represented was the Feria de Manizales. In this festival, there is bullfighting and the Reinado Internacional del Café (International Queen of Coffee Beauty Pageant). It takes place every January in the city of Manizales.
Many students represented the Carnaval de Negros y Blancos (Carnival of Blacks and Whites), one of the most important celebrations in Colombia, taking place every January in Pasto. Some of the students were painted with white and black makeup, some carried giant “puppets”, and others represented the aristocratic Castañeda family.
Finally, the one that stole the show was the 10th graders representing the Carnaval de Barranquilla. They had the most festive and colorful costumes, the most well-rehearsed dances, and the most enthusiastic participants. The costumes represented the Marimonda (a creature with a long nose and big floppy ears), Africans (men with bodies painted black), men in drag, and women in colorful skirts. Carnaval takes place every February in Barranquilla.
Thursday was the science fair, which was actually a business fair as noted above. The school gymnasium was transformed into an exhibition hall with over 40 booths. These booths were created by groups of entrepreneurial minded students in the 11th grade and covered a multitude of industries such as tourism, entertainment, food, software, automotive, and music. They worked several weeks on the projects.
I have to say I was extremely impressed with the professionalism and the lengths they went to to create their projects. They had business cards, custom made shirts, custom made packaging, glass display cases with items related to their business, computers, flat screen TVs, and even cars and motorcycles! It’s a shame it was only to last one day. I truly believe that some of the projects could easily find funding and were ready to make money immediately.
I was charged with grading the English of each individual participating in the fair along with two other native speaker teachers. In preparation, I sat with each group for 20 to 30 minutes in the days leading up to the fair to practice answering questions in English. Many of the groups heeded my advice and did a fantastic job. Others didn’t and were scored very low in English although their projects were still brilliant.
In the end, the judges had to choose just one overall winner. Only five students received perfect scores. Two of them were on the same team. I had suggested that both be named joint winners because there was nothing separating their English skills, but the coordinator made us choose just one. The other three were named honorable mentions.