Exploring languages through culture

Exploring languages through culture

The Westerly Sun

STONINGTON — Mackenzie Riggs drew henna tattoos in Morocco. Christian Magalis broke bread in Paris, and Asad Ahmed went salsa dancing in Cuba.

A group of Pawcatuck Middle School sixth-graders went four minutes down the road Tuesday morning for the opportunity to visit French- and Spanish-speaking countries across the globe.

“It’s cool,” Asad said. “I learned Cuban salsa dance — the first time. We get to go around the world in Stonington.”

Hoping to inspire the district’s sixth-graders to learn a language and give them a glimpse of cultural connections, students in Stonington High School’s Spanish and French honor societies held a languages and cultures day for middle school students in the SHS commons.

Juniors and seniors created lessons for countries in the Caribbean, Central America, North America, Africa, and other regions.

“We let them pick what language they would like to learn and what culture they would like to explore,” Stonington High Spanish and French teacher Lea Graner Kennedy said. “It’s important for young students to be inspired to learn language in an authentic way and to start the pipeline in the sixth grade.”

Each sixth-grade student was given a “passport” to visit six of the nearly 40 French- and Spanish-speaking countries scattered around a section of the high school’s commons.

In Paraguay, students sampled delicate cookies called alfajores, filled with dulce de leche; in El Salvador they learned about coffee beans; and in Panama they received a lesson on mola art.

“We’re taking 10 minutes to hopefully give them a taste about the culture and different aspects of the language,” said Alaina Small, president of the French Honor Society. Small and students visiting French Polynesia made paper tiare flowers — tiare is the national flower of Tahiti.

“We want to get them interested in pursuing a language,” she said.

Sixth-graders in Stonington are introduced to a language, but don’t take full language classes — French or Spanish — until seventh grade.

“We learned how to say a phrase in Paraguay,” Mackenzie said. “This makes it easier for you to choose what you want to study.”

Middle school students completed other tasks related to each country’s language and culture and also got the chance to mingle with the high school students.

“This gets them engaged and excited about learning a language,” Pawcatuck Middle Spanish teacher Tara Bennett said.

Added Annette L’Homme, a French teacher at Pawcatuck Middle: “Being able to see the older students do this and be role models is extremely important.”

Stonington High will host the international showcase for Mystic Middle sixth-graders on Thursday.

“It’s good because you learn about each country,” Christian said. “I like French class, so I’m visiting mostly French-speaking countries. I’m learning a lot.”



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