Lake Grove students celebrate Mexican culture, food, art and architecture during the school's Culture Travel Week

Lake Grove Elementary students had a chance to "travel" to Mexico this week as part of the school's annual PTA-sponsored Culture Travel Week.

Students rotated through three stations as they learned about various aspects of Mexican culture: food, art and architecture, and celebrations. This year's program was organized by PTA Co-President Emily Lopez, who chose to teach the students about Mexico.

"My husband is from Mexico, so it was an easy choice for us. I wanted (students) to learn about the culture of my husband and his family," says Lopez. "This is the last year that both of my kids will be at Lake Grove, so I wanted them to share that experience and be proud of their cultural heritage. I am definitely happy to help share a positive view of the country."

At the food station, students tasted traditional Mexican foods like arroz y frijoles (beans and rice), refried beans, chips and salsa, churros, and horchata (a rice-milk based drink with cinnamon and vanilla).

"My favorite part was definitely the food," says fifth-grader Jenna Rashed. "The rice and beans were my favorite."

Fifth-grader Khushi Rastogi agrees. "The food is always the best part. Last year, we had Ethiopian food, which was so good," she says. "This year's was great too. If our school hot lunch was as good as that, I would eat it every day."

Students also learned some facts about Mexican food —tacos do not traditionally contain cheese, for example, and rice is cooked in tomatoes, which gives it an orange color.

"I loved sitting around the table with my students as we tried out new foods and got to compare them to what we eat at home," says Lake Grove fifth-grade teacher Rebecca Johanson O'Loughlin.

At the celebrations station, students learned about Mexican traditions such as Cinco de Mayo (which commemorates the Mexican Army's unlikely victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862), Dia de los Muertos (a joyous remembrance of friends and family members who have died), and Quinceaneras (a celebration of a girl's 15th birthday and transition to womanhood).

They also got to try using traditional Mexican maracas, making their own out of spoons and easter eggs filled with rice.

"I loved seeing the kids' reactions to the things they learned and the foods they tried. I think it's amazing that our PTA provides kids with such a unique experience every year," says Lopez. "I think it's important for students to learn about other cultures so that they can see how differently people live around the world. It's fun and interesting to hear how people in other cultures and countries are different from us but also similar. Mexico has such a rich cultural history and so many fascinating and unique things about it."

At the third station, students learned about the art and architecture of Mexico. Students tried their hand at weaving fabric on a loom and donned colorful Mexican attire. They learned about pottery, basket weaving and silver, as well as Mexican ruins and architecture.

"One of my favorite tidbits about Mexico is how diverse the architecture is there — there are ancient ruins, buildings influenced by Spanish conquerors, modern buildings and everything in between," says Lopez.

Johanson O'Loughlin says both she and her students always look forward to Culture Travel Week, and this year was no exception.

"As a teacher, I think any way we can expose students to a new culture that doesn't include just reading from a textbook is a huge win," she says. "They are completely engaged in the food, artifacts, and traditions they are discovering."

Culture Travel Week is held at various elementary schools throughout Lake Oswego. Check with your school's PTO or PTA for more information.

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Claire Holley at 503-479-2381 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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