Deeper Connections Through Spanish and Social Studies

Deeper Connections Through Spanish and Social Studies

As evidenced by the colorfully adorned tables and lively music, the Lower School Art room was ready for a party. However, this wasn’t just any party – it was Class 3’s cross-curricular celebration of culture and identity!

The gathering recognized the culmination of an immersive unit in “Triple S,” a once-a-cycle extension of the Spanish and Social Studies curriculum that gives students the opportunity to explore various topics en español, resulting new perspectives and deeper connections.

To kick off the earlier lessons, the students had brainstormed elements that comprise “our identities” (nuestras identidades) with help from Spanish teacher Isamar Rosado-Aponte. After a productive exchange, they created this robust list: family structure (estructura familiar); personality (personalidad); physical appearance (apariencia física); culture/ethnicity (cultura/etnicidad); religion (religión); race (raza); language (lenguaje); gender (género); and abilities (salud y habilidades); hobbies/passions/friends (pasatiempos/pasiones/amistades); education/learning style (estilos de aprendizaje/educación) and values and beliefs (valores y creencias).

Guided by a color-coded chart they created (for instance, yellow = family structure; green = physical appearance, etc.), the students next considered the question, What are the most important aspects of my identity and why? (¿Cuáles son los elementos más importante de mi identidad? ¿Por qué?). They wrote reflections in their Social Studies journals then designed a puzzle (rompecabeza) to visually represent the interlocking components. Working in pairs, they gave and received feedback on their puzzle drafts, adding more colors, for example, and making other adjustments.

In the next Triple S class, the students used watercolors to bring their rompecabezas to life. Maestra Rosado and the Class 3 homeroom teachers led in-depth discussions about what has shaped each student in distinct ways. The puzzles were photocopied for the concluding round of lessons, which took place in Art.

Informed by the topic, “How is my culture and identity expressed through food and eating?,” the students made “meal sculptures” to pay homage to cuisines that were integral to their heritage. Lower School Art teacher Lauren McCarty had demonstrated the best methods for working with low-fire clay, supporting and encouraging the young artists during the several weeks it took to finish their impressive pieces, which were painted, fired in the kiln and finished with a coat of shiny glaze.

“They worked really hard on this project,” noted Ms. McCarty as a section of Class 3 (Head Teacher Janeen Washington and Associate Teacher Hannah Weiss’s homeroom) settled into the Art room, their ceramic masterpieces on proud display. In addition to depicting foods that resonated with them like sushi, spaghetti, bacon and eggs, broccoli and many more, the students also used their imaginations to make functional (and eye-catching!) plates and mugs. The inventive dishes sat atop their laminated puzzle placemats. (The other sections had their parties at different times).

To fortify their Spanish vocabulary, Maestra Rosado placed a selection of conversation starters in the center of each table. In between bites of pizza, the students took turns communicating en español with phrases like: ¿Qué hay en tu plato? (What’s on your plate?), ¡Buen provecho! (Enjoy!) and Me gusta tu arte porque… (I like your art because…).

As their teachers circulated, the students chatted confidently with one another, in both Spanish and English, and seemed to genuinely enjoy this thoughtfully planned, identity-centered party, which also included red-velvet cookies for dessert. Before the celebration wrapped up, there was one last task in store.

After ringing a bell, Ms. McCarty directed the students’ attention to a blank puzzle in the center of the room. “There are 20 pieces, one for each of you,” she told them. While their puzzle placemats honored their individual identities, she explained, this “class puzzle” was intended to encapsulate the identity of the entire section.

“Think about some part of who you are that you’d like to bring to your homeroom community,” she said. “What’s special about you?”

Each student took a puzzle piece and settled into quiet concentration, pencils and markers at the ready. Although they would need more time to complete the assignment, they were clearly eager to contribute to this collaborative and affirming project. This closing activity and the overarching Triple S learning experience certainly gave these Class 3 scholars much food for thought.