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US, MS students join area Hispanic students for mutual learning

For the past seven years Spanish students at Greenhills have been actively making connections with the Latino communities in the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Detroit areas, 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.20170417_102046The Spanish teachers at Greenhills, Sra. Elaine Moffat, Sr. Kevin Olson and Sra. Lisa 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.

This year’s first such event happened March 30, when 51 students, 10 parent chaperones, Sr. Olson and Sra. Moffat visited Detroit. Though it was rainy and miserable, the day’s wonderful experiences more than made up for the weather.

The first stop was Academy of the Americas, a bilingual school on Detroit’s southwest side. Greenhills Spanish students read original and purchased Spanish storybooks to four different classes of first graders. Then they worked in four different stations, doing math problems, miming vocabulary, drawing, and asking and answering questions. All of the students worked completely in Spanish for two hours. The Greenhills students were very impressed with the fluency of the first-grade students at Academy of the Americas, and how much Spanish they knew.

Academy of the Americas is a unique school. Greenhills Spanish teachers have a special relationship with the first-grade teachers there, and the bond has only strengthened since the groups first partnered up three years ago. Every year Greenhills students either visit the first-grade classes or invite them to Ann Arbor to spend the day at Greenhills.

The next stop was lunch at Mi Pueblo, an authentic Mexican restaurant near the school. Students feasted on chips and salsa, tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, rice and beans and Mexican arroz con leche – rice pudding – for dessert. Lunch was a big hit.

Finally, the students visited the Diego Rivera frescos at the Detroit Institute of Arts. They had the opportunity to sit back and take in the sheer magnificence of the frescos and then complete a written exercise designed to follow the frescoes and point out the most important ideas that the students had discussed in their classes. One of the student’s grandmothers, Linda Markham, is a docent at the DIA and she explained more about the frescoes to the classes.

Sixth- and seventh-grade students made the following comments:

“I had a super fun time on the field trip. It was amazing working with the first-graders at the Academy of the Americas. I was nervous going in because I thought I wasn’t going to know what to say but the kids were super sweet and I understood what they were saying. It was super cool actually using my Spanish in real life and I realized how much Spanish I actually knew. Overall, it was a really great experience.”  –Sophia Rich, Grade 6.

“This was the best foreign language experience of my life. First of all, the first graders were extremely funny and super fun to work with. They welcomed us with a lot of love and they really appreciated what we did for them.”  –Aravind Krishnan, Grade 6.

“This trip made me want to learn more Spanish. The kids also enjoyed having us there.” –Maggie Wolf, Grade 7.

“This is a great experience for learning about Spanish culture.”  –Jude Lozsweski, Grade 7.

See Flickr photos from the Detroit trip here and here 

At the Upper School level, Sra. 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 or local community project had to come out of their creative work. So a little more recently she, Alyssa Friendly, and Kathleen Evans from the Perry Child Development Center in Ypsilanti worked together on what turned out to be a wonderful experience for Greenhills students and for the 4- to 6-year-old native Spanish-speakers in Perry’s English Language Learners program.

Thirty-five Spanish II students headed to Perry April 17 with the books they had written, along with interview questions and a donation of crayons, coloring books, stickers, and English books for the kids. They spent time with their 20 buddies introducing themselves in Spanish and interviewing the native Spanish speakers, as well as reading the books they (and previous Greenhills Spanish students) had created. They also spent time coloring and playing basketball and soccer.

The results were absolutely magical for both groups of students. Greenhills students commented after this experience:

“It was a great learning experience, but really fun at the same time. We made the children happy because we were there with them and we gained more knowledge by speaking with them.” –Nicole Persad, Grade 9.

“Communicating with our five-year-old buddy showed us how important learning a new language is and how many more people we can connect to because of it.”  –Violet Amezaga, Grade 9.

“The experience allowed me to see the power of understanding another language first-hand. It opens up a new world when you connect with someone and their heritage.”  –Will Ellsworth, Grade 9.

“Language isn’t an impediment to having fun with a five year old.”  –Drake Rosenberg, Grade 10.

See Flickr photos of the trip here

–compiled by Sra. Elaine Moffat


Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

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