Kindergarten students at St. Brendan School learned to “be a buddy, not a bully” last month by spending an afternoon interacting with students from a nearby Islamic elementary school.
The event brought nearly 50 children together at the St. Brendan Catholic School — located at 238 S. Manhattan Pl. — to eat pizza and play games.
“I got the idea from a holiday commercial — you know, the one with the priest and Muslim cleric. I saw it, and thought it was so sweet,” says St. Brendan kindergarten teacher Stacy Herman.
The Amazon Prime holiday advertisement shows two old friends of different faiths, both with bad knees, reconnecting over a cup of tea. Later they unsuspectedly order each other the same gift: knee pads to cushion the floor when kneeling to pray.
Herman says after seeing the ad, she remembered there was an Islamic school nearby, so she called them up to see if they wanted to get together.
New Horizon Elementary School principal Jolanda Hussain says she was excited to receive Herman’s call.
“The kids have recently heard a lot of negativity in the news. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there have been specific threats — two in the last month — to the Islamic Center that’s right next to our school,” she explained.
According to Hussain, the cross-cultural play-date may be the first opportunity for some of her students to meet with people from other religions and to see that they also just like to eat pizza, drink juice and play games.
“I think that is very important,” says Hussain, “and I hope they take this experience with them for the rest of their lives.”
The two educators kept the Dec. 6 play-date simple: each group of students recited their lunch prayer for the other, before they dined and went to the playground.
“It’s really just about the students interacting,” says Herman, who explained that she most wants her students to learn a respect for diversity:
“It’s a part of our faith: to be respectful and kind to other people.”