Elaine Moffat: Spanish students make connections with the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit Latino Communities
For the past eight years Spanish students at Greenhills have been actively making connections with the Latino communities in the Ypsilanti/Detroit areas. The students have been working with younger native speaking and bilingual students in Spanish, as well as sampling delicious authentic food at many different restaurants in the three cities.
The Spanish teachers at Greenhills, Sra. Moffat, Sr. Olson and Sra. Ortiz believe that their students learn Spanish in order to communicate and form bonds with other Spanish speakers. That is why these connections are so important. The students see firsthand the importance of learning new Spanish vocabulary and grammar because it is applicable in the real world. Our students enjoy the challenges of becoming progressively more fluent in Spanish because it is practical, valuable, and fun. They are all also extremely generous, always bringing in donations for the schools such as English children’s books, school supplies, crayons, coloring books, whiteboard markers or whatever supplies are needed.
Día de amiguitos
On Thursday, April 19, all of the middle and upper school Spanish classes at Greenhills were involved in some way in hosting our second “Día de amiguitos” (“Day of Little Buddies”).
The day evolved as a result of our students’ numerous visits to the Academy of the Americas (a Detroit Public Schools bilingual school), during which we learned that these talented first graders with excellent teachers work extremely hard, write lots of tests, and deserve some time to relax and have fun.
Greenhills sent several buses to pick up the 100 first graders, their chaperones, and their teachers for a day of fun-filled activities, food, and bonding with Greenhills students — all conducted in Spanish.
After a nutritious snack and some ice-breaking games in Spanish (facilitated by sophomores Abby Schmit, Gabby Ajja, Violet Amezaga, Nicole Persad, Will Ellsworth, Juliet Kracjik, Aarushi Ganguly, Emma Chen), the adorable first graders were divided into three groups and played different games in the West Gym.
During D period, the students ate a Mexican-themed lunch provided by Greenhills and Tíos, and read books with 8th grade Spanish students.
Next, during E period, the three groups did an art project, completing a getting-to-know-you activity and then reading Spanish books written through the years by Greenhills middle and upper school Spanish students.
During F period, the students toured the school and returned to engage in more activities, which included cookie decorating, singing, and charades.
At the end of F period, our guests returned to the All-School Forum, where goodbyes were said and many hugs were exchanged. The children left Greenhills with special goodie bags, their posters, and memories of a fun-filled day spent with older students who loved spending time with them and practicing their Spanish.
Greenhills Spanish students really enjoy these kinds of days where they get to directly interact with native Spanish-speaking students and practice their Spanish. Here are some reflections from students of different grades:
“My favorite part about Día de amiguitos was probably the fact that we could speak to them. The activities were very fun, but we got to speak to some fluent Spanish speakers and I felt that I got to use what I learned in a real-life situation.”
Caden Che (6th grade)
“Something I took away from Día de amiguitos is that these kids work really hard to speak a second language, and they are very good at it. Some are nearly fluent in English and the ones that aren’t try really hard, which was very inspiring.”
Ella Thorne (7th grade)
“My favorite part of Día de amiguitos was using my Spanish skills to connect to actual people instead of just for a worksheet or a test. I was a little nervous going into the day because I wasn’t sure my Spanish skills would be good enough to hold a conversation with the students, but after just a few minutes into meeting the kids I felt confident because I could hold a conversation easily, and even connect beyond the surface level. I learned many things about the kids, and made three new friends! Overall I had a really great time, but connecting beyond the surface level was my favorite thing.”
Cari Bohm, 8th grade
“I mostly took away a fun experience with adorable little kids. I’ve always liked working with kids, especially K – 2nd, so first graders were exactly what I hoped for. All of them were very fun and hyper, but listened super well. When they first filed into the room, they would barely meet our eyes, but after only about 10 minutes, the room was filled with voices and laughter. This surprised me, and I guess changed how I thought about how shy there were. It was also a really good way to talk in Spanish. One little girl and I had an entire conversation about princesses and dresses! I really hope this biannual visit continues.”
Sydney Cha (9th grade)
“After Día de amiguitos, I feel as if I obtained a stronger grasp of the richness of learning two language as child. These kids spoke so fluently and easily in both languages and it made me wish I was immersed in two languages that young. In addition to this, I really did think that I’d have trouble understanding them and that they’d criticize me when I slipped up on my grammar. In reality they didn’t care at all! I wish that I could interact with them everyday, because I really believe my Spanish abilities would grow significantly.”
Samantha Brown (10th grade)
“I really enjoyed my time with the kids and it actually served as a confidence-booster of my perception of my ability to speak Spanish at a level that someone who speaks it natively could understand.”
Shruti Lakshmanan (11th grade)
“I had a fantastic experience with the amiguitos. It was nice for me to be able to practice my Spanish with native speakers, an experience that is always a treat for me.”
Lucas Rubin (12th grade)
Greenhills Spanish II Students: Creativity, Service and Community
Sra. Elaine Moffat was so impressed with the illustrated books her Spanish II students have been writing during the last several years that she knew a service learning/local community project had to come out of their creative work in Spanish class. She, Greenhills Service Learning Director Alyssa Friendly, and Kathleen Evans from Ypsilanti’s Perry Child Development Center worked together, and the result was a wonderful experience for Greenhills Spanish II students and 4-to 6-year-old English Language Learner students – who are native Spanish-speakers – at Perry.
On April 30, 27 Spanish II students set off from Greenhills with the illustrated Spanish-language books they had written as well as interview questions, and a donation of crayons, coloring books, stickers, and English books for the kids. They spent time with their 14 buddies introducing themselves in Spanish and interviewing the native Spanish speakers, as well as reading the books they and previous Spanish students had created, coloring, and playing.
The results were absolutely magical for both groups of students. Greenhills students commented after this experience:
“I enjoyed the trip to Perry because it was fun to interact with the children. First interacting with them made me nervous, but remembering that I was there for them helped. I came away with a giddy joy from being with the kids.”
Nathan Koh (9th grade)
“It was enjoyable and also educational in the sense that I could practice my Spanish with native speakers. I learned that I know more Spanish than I think.”
Kai Ruwende (9th grade)
“When I asked my buddy in Spanish what he didn’t like to do, he said, I like everything!”
Quade Pohlman (10th grade)
“I came away with eagerness to practice my skills because I love actually interacting in another language and I want to do it often!”
Sumayah Ahmed (10th grade)