WINNIPEG - As some grades face the challenges of a pandemic, schools across Winnipeg have enlisted some help from a dancing, talking perogy teacher named Petrusia. Manitoba Parents for Ukrainian Education is preparing English-Ukrainian bilingual programming for the coming school year, as their anthropomorphic dumpling brings to class a filling of fun, stories, songs, and lessons on the value of Ukrainian language and culture.
Despite the difficulties brought on by COVID-19, the non-profit has been able to connect with children and their parents through their giant varenyky mascot. The costume comes equipped with a traditional Ukrainian outfit with floral print, an embroidered blouse, a sash, and leather boots.
Petrusia Perogy had been visiting K to grade 8 classes in 11 schools across Manitoba, including Ralph Brown, Prince Edward, and R.F. Morrison School, H.C. Avery Middle School, and Chief Peguis Junior High, along with others in Selkirk, Dauphin, and Oakbank. As many schools in Manitoba have shifted to remote learning, in-person lessons with Petrusia are currently on pause, but virtual varenyky visits continue.
Fluent in both languages, teachers involved in the English-Ukrainian Bilingual Program provide half of their lessons in Ukrainian, acquaint their students with other Ukrainian speakers throughout the province, and organize a wide range of cultural activities.
MPUE points to research that has shown that a child learning a second language will have improved cognitive and listening skills, and will even have improved communication skills in their first language. MPUE president Paulette Monita says awareness of, and connecting with, another cultures also teaches students to empathize with each other, and to value diversity.