DC students visit the Norwegian Embassy

The Embassy Adoption Program gets schoolchildren to think—and eat—internationally

Photo: Stephanie Thompson Students from Leckie elementary school represent Norway at the United Nations Simulation.

Photo: Stephanie Thompson
Students from Leckie elementary school represent Norway at the United Nations Simulation.

Christine Foster Meloni
Washington, D.C.

The children in the fifth grade class at Leckie Elementary School in Washington, D.C., will surely never forget their Norwegian experience.

The Royal Norwegian Embassy is a participant, along with more than 60 other embassies in the nation’s capital, in the Embassy Adoption Program (EAP). This program, established in 1974, is a partnership between the Washington, D.C., Public Schools and Washington Performing Arts. Children are exposed to international perspectives and cross-cultural lessons through direct interactions with embassies. They have the opportunity to learn about the language, customs, history, and culture of their partner’s home country.

The Norwegian Embassy was assigned Leckie Elementary and Urd Berge Millbury, the Cultural Officer, planned various activities for the children throughout the school year. For the grand finale, the class was invited to the embassy where they presented a marvelous program that highlighted what they had learned about Norway.

The children began their program by respectfully singing Norway’s national anthem by heart in Norwegian. It was a very moving moment. Then five children shared their favorite memories of the year.

Tavion enjoyed in particular their visit to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor where they toured Norway’s Statsraad Lehmkuhl, one of the oldest and largest sailing ships in the world. On board they tasted the food that the crew ate and saw the hammocks where they slept. They learned about how fast the weather can change and how long it takes Norwegians to travel by sea from Norway to the U.S.

Mekhi’s favorite memory was the visit to Union Station to see the annual lighting of the Norwegian Christmas tree. The children enjoyed a private program before the main public event. First, Santa Claus gave them all some chocolate and the famous Norwegian singer, Ida Jenshus, sang to them. Then they had hamburgers and French fries that were delicious. When they all went back to school, Mekhi said, everyone was really jealous of them! (Mekhi was unable to attend and her script was presented by Rasual.)

Jemoni was most interested in the presentation of Vedis Vik, the Embassy’s Counselor for the Environment, about climate change in Norway and around the world. He learned what steps Norway is taking to prevent climate change from getting worse. He said that he would use this information when he represented Norway in the United Nations Simulation.

Gwendolyn really liked the short films that Ms. Millbury showed them. Her favorite was “Sissy,” in which a little girl got revenge on her brother after he had called her a sissy. In the end, he turned out to be the sissy. Another short that she liked a lot was the one about the troll. Her favorite part was when she learned that rocks are really sleeping trolls! She thought “Super Dad” was good, too, because it involved a supernatural element.

Arjanae thought Chef Per’s visit was the best of all. She learned that Norwegians sometimes eat food differently from how we eat it in the U.S. For example, Norwegians don’t eat peanut butter and jelly together. And Ms. Millbury showed them some things they eat in Norway that we don’t eat here.
A performance of the Norwegian classic “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” followed, and the audience loved it. It was very well done and should definitely go on the road!

All the stage hands were very effective. Lamya and Daejahnae did an excellent job of holding up the bridge, the key element of this story. Micheal was the tree while Gael and Markel represented the water. The narrators (Eugene and Amoré) were fine storytellers.

The children who played the three billy goats were fantastic. The little billy goat (Keoni) pitched his voice high and was very effective in convincing the troll to let him by. The middle billy goat (Malique) also had the perfect voice and convincing manner. The third billy goat (Khamani) was one tough animal when confronted by the troll. He had the audience in stitches when he jerked his thumb in the direction of the troll and gave a look as if to say, “Ha! Who does he think he is?!”

The troll (Antonio) was a scary character, especially when he suddenly jumped out from under the bridge to scare the trespassers. He was funny as well as he stroked his chin, deciding whether to let the first two goats pass unharmed. He was defeated and, in the end, you could hear the three goats happily munching on the fresh green grass.

In conclusion, two representatives from the class, Amiyah and Miracle, presented Ms. Millbury with gifts to show their gratitude and affection—a bouquet of flowers and a piece of original artwork created by the students. She in turn told them how much she had enjoyed getting to know them and thanked them for their enthusiasm for her country.

Lajla B. Jakhelln, the Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, represented the Ambassador, who was away in Norway. She thanked the children for coming and praised them for their very fine program.

It was then time for lunch. Chef Per prepared Norwegian food for the children and the adults present. The menu included a choice of four different kinds of open-faced sandwiches on homemade whole-grain bread: (1) lettuce, slices of cheese, sliced carrots, grapes; (2) lettuce, cheese, ham, tomato, cucumber; (3) lettuce, salami, cucumber; and (4) lettuce, boiled egg, tomato, parsley. The children were then treated to classic heart-shaped Norwegian waffles with strawberry jam. (They knew that the Norwegians never put syrup on waffles!)

Before their performance, the children were given a special tour of the Ambassador’s residence. They were especially impressed with the eight original works by the most famous Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, the lovely garden, and the large kitchen that prepared food for approximately 70,000 guests every year. They were shown the stairs that led off the kitchen up to the Ambassador’s private living quarters.

A few days after the visit to the embassy, five students went on to represent Norway very effectively at the EAP’s Mini United Nations Simulation, where the debate topic was climate change.

The Embassy Adoption Program has received many awards including the U.S. Department of Education Award for Outstanding International Education Program.

The relationship between the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Leckie Elementary School was definitely outstanding, thanks to the many dedicated individuals involved, especially the bright and enthusiastic fifth graders themselves, their remarkable teacher, Stephanie Thompson, and the very competent Urd Millbury.

An article about the visit of Chef Per to the school appeared in the May 20, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American: www.norwegianamerican.com/neighborhood/no-chips-in-norwegian-schools.

This article originally appeared in the July 15, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Christine Foster Meloni

Christine Foster Meloni is professor emerita at The George Washington University. She has degrees in Italian literature, linguistics, and international education. She was born in Minneapolis and currently lives in Washington, D.C. She values her Norwegian heritage.