The third, fourth and fifth grade students at Feltonville Intermediate School paraded through their North Philly neighborhood this afternoon, carrying colorful signs that boasted "I Come From..." and handmade, life-sized puppets to celebrate their school's cultural diversity.

The parade is the finale of the Lifting Our Cultures and Families project, a collaboration between the school, Spiral Q Puppet Theater, and the Picasso Project of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY).

Four years ago, after an influx of students boosted the school's population 50 percent and changed its ethnic mix, Spiral Q was invited in to engage in a community-building project. The project also included an afterschool component, allowing family members to participate.

"Arts bring an essential element to their learning experience," explains Gretchen Elise Walker, Picasso Project Coordinator. "It gives them an avenue of expression, alternate ways to succeed and different approaches to problem solving."

Says guidance counselor Pam Turner-Bunyon: "It's bigger than just an art project. The children are building confidence in themselves and developing social skills that will enable them to be more successful in their education."