Red Bank Charter School S students with Principal Meredith Pennotti on International Day.

Classrooms at Red Bank Charter School were transformed into disaster zones as students immersed themselves in a learning experience that combined performance art with history, culture, science and cuisine as part of the school’s annual International Day.

Students in each grade level dressed in local garb and showcased what they learned about the impact of natural disasters on various countries as fellow students, parents, board trustees and community members were invited to experience each country with a guided tour.

Red Bank Charter School Principal Meredith Pennotti said International Day has been an integral part of the school’s curriculum for many years.

“International Day is a way to expose students, even those in the earliest grades, to the world that they will inherit and to connect the curriculum to current events,” Pennotti said. “This is education at its best. Public, charter, private; it doesn’t matter.

Several public officials attended the Oct. 19 event, including Red Bank Borough Schools Superintendent Dr. Jared Rumage Red Bank Regional High School Superintendent Dr. Louis B. Moore, RBRHS Principal Risa Clay, state Sen. Jennifer Beck and Councilmen Mike Whelan and Mark Taylor.

“We have a lot of young people who are aware of their role as global citizens,” Beck said. “It’s invaluable as they become adults that they understand they are not just contributors to the Red Bank community, but to a larger world community. I think that’s been reinforced through the International Day here today in a very unique and beautiful way.”

Every year, students typically study countries impacted by the world’s most challenging and topical issues. Recent topics included the world water crisis, human trafficking, world hunger, and the fate of refugees.

“International Day at the Charter School is a shining example of creative teaching and learning,” Whelan said. “The combination of culture and science to illustrate natural disasters and government was remarkably done. I’m proud to be a part of their day.”

The theme of natural disasters was particularly timely given the number of recent events, including earthquakes in Mexico, wildfires in California and hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Fourth graders concentrated on Mexico and the two large earthquakes that struck Mexico City and surrounding areas in September, killing hundreds of people and reducing parts of the city to rubble.  Red Bank Charter School is more than 43 percent Latino and most of those students are from families who come from Mexico.

“For many of these students, this wasn’t an abstract academic lesson, but a personal exploration,” Pennotti said.

Other classes studied how natural disasters impacted people in Peru, Columbia, Vietnam, China, India and Indonesia.

Pennotti said teachers also built into the lesson the theme of resilience of the human spirit in the face of suffering.

For example, after explaining how the earthquake impacted residents of Mexico, students sang a joyful song called, “Una Sola Voz (One Voice).”

The day ended with a closing ceremony where the flag and anthem of each country serve as a backdrop.

By the end of the day, our children have a broader understanding of the complex world in which they live and the common bond of the resilience of the human spirit, which weaves through all of us,” Pennotti said.