Associate Features Editor
The second annual L’Italia festival took place in Lititz Park, Saturday, Sept. 16. This cultural celebration is presented by the Keystone Italian Project and local Italian restaurant Piccolo Eatery. Many came for the food, but stayed for live music, storytelling, dancing, and artisans. Dozens of vendors lined the pavement and spread across the grass. Artisan vendors showcased their work in the Villaggio Artigiano craft village. Food vendors and food trucks brought a taste of Italy to Pennsylvania. Their popularity caused many to be sold out of food before the end of the event.
Two vendors sell Italian cuisine in the park. BREONNA / DULL
The festival also included a car show sponsored by the Fiat Club of Central Pennsylvania and activities arranged by the Sons & Daughters of Italy and the Lancaster Italian Culture Society. Right outside the park, the Lititz VFW hosted a complementary event for Italian-inspired beer, wine, and cocktails.
As I walked through the stands in the park, one caught my eye: The New School Montessori. A few children sat on a mat playing with plastic animals, wooden blocks, and tinkering with parts. I later learned these are called “manipulatives” or physical objects children can interact with to learn a lesson.
What is a Montessori school? New School Montessori middle school teacher, Steve Carlson, described the definition and values of Montessori schools.
“Montessori schools are prepared environments by trained instructors in order to guide children through different learning opportunities,” said Carlson.
These schools differ from public education because it is customized to the child. Trained Montessori instructors follow a holistic approach to education, considering the student’s social, emotional, spiritual, and cognitive needs. The New Montessori School prides itself in making education “joyful and engaging.”
Parents watch children play at the New School Montessori tent. BREONNA / SNAPPER
Montessori schools were created by Italian physician Marie Montessori. She was the first woman in Italy to be a certified doctor. When she was repeatedly turned down by employers, she began working with underserved kids in her community in the 1940s. Montessori noticed children using physical materials in a classroom to learn. The children were more interested and engaged in the physical objects than lectures, papers, or reading.
She created an educational environment without the usual pressures of performance and stress of conformity. Students in Montessori schools can interact with their environment, learning lessons and experiences freely.
“The child naturally wants to explore their environment,” said Carlson, “If you put constraints on them, there’s a lot of opportunity lost.”
Today, Montessori instructors aim to continue Marie Montessori’s vision. Steve Carlson explained that instructors “follow the child.” Teachers observe what each kid needs in order to form a lesson plan. Classrooms are close-knit communities, encouraging communication, creativity, and self-paced problem-solving.
Montessori schools tell an inspirational story of independence and empowerment inspired by Italian culture. The Lititz community came together to celebrate the contributions of Italians and Italian-Americans to our country and the world.
The following day, Keystone Italian Project hosted the L’Italia fundraising Gala at the Log Cabin Restaurant in Leola. To celebrate the L’Italia vendors and volunteers, the Keystone Italian Project provided a buffet dinner, live music, dancing, and a cash bar.
You can find the festival’s website at lititz.it or their Facebook page at lanc.news/litalia23 for future events. To engage in Italian culture events and information, visit the Lancaster Italian Cultural Society’s website https://www.lancaster-italian-cultural-society.org/.
An Italian-inspired pastry menu is displayed in front of a bakery tent. BREONNA DULL / SNAPPER