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Blessings pour forth at Thai celebration

North Star teacher leads students in new year’s program

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Kayla Richins, 6, bows at the end of a traditional Thai dance during a program at North Star Elementary organized by a teacher.

Kayla Richins, 6, bows at the end of a traditional Thai dance during a program at North Star Elementary organized by a teacher.

Jeremy Harmon, Deseret Morning News

As April showers poured down outside Thursday, North Star Elementary School in Salt Lake City had some indoor sprinkles of its own.

Thailand native and assistant kindergarten teacher Warunee Koonrajaksebonde, known by the students as Mrs. Doi, led the school in a Thai new years celebration — complete with dancing and water blessings.

The Sonkran is held each year on April 13 in Thailand to mark the end of the 12-month solar cycle. Water throwing symbolizes the process of cleansing and purification needed to start the new year.

Doi started more than a month ago teaching faculty and students dances for the festival along with some lessons in Thai culture.

Thailand is called the land of the smile because the people are happy and very respectful. They are raised to not show anger, be loud or show off but to show respect to everyone and welcome everybody, said Doi.

Students lined up to receive a water blessing with perfumed water from decorative Thai goblets. First the students dumped water on a Buddha statue, and then Doi sprinkled the students with water for luck and purity.

"At this time of year in our country it is very hot, that is why we have this water festival," said Doi. "We bless the Buddha first, and then we are blessing our family and friends and everybody."

Doi has put on the festival at North Star for the past four years and is one of a handful of teachers with foreign origins who share their cultures with the school during the year.

Principal Rosanne Henderson said her staff includes teachers with Hopi, Eastern Indian, Iranian, Hispanic and Asian origins who all have contributed in the past in giving students an up-close and personal look at their cultures.

"What's so cool about this school is that they try to celebrate every type of holiday — there are so many types of ethnicities in this school, and they touch bases on all of them," said student teacher Bryan Boyd, who also performed for the students.

"For us to be able to work together and collaborate it is important for us to know and learn about other cultures so that we can understand the children — to really know them and teach them better so that they can respect other people," said Henderson.


E-mail: terickson@desnews.com