For the better part of this semester my students spent their time leading up to reading the novel Esperanza. Elena and I worked collaboratively to create a story-based unit called Las vacaciones de Carlota. This story was based on an original version of the story by Jane VanderBeek that she shared with Elena. The story set up the idea of traveling to Guatemala and led well into the real life situation of children and families living in the Guatemala City dump. One of my goals this year has been to blend storytelling with content and culture based learning.
I wanted to get more into content and social issues with the issue of the Guatemala City dump so I researched and created a content-based comprehensible reading for kids to engage with in Spanish. I put it in a Google Form and broke the article down into parts so students could answer comprehension questions as they went and then also see more images and answer a variety of questions. I then used the results from students for discussion the next day in class. Here is the text form of the reading. Having the pie charts of the answers from students and answers to fill in the blank answers helped students see responses of their peers and keep the discussion primarily in Spanish with the visuals.
Meanwhile, I had been really personally bothered by the images I saw of children and families in the dump and started doing some more searching for organizations working with kids living in the dump and found Camino Seguro. Camino Seguro is a school that works with children and adults living in or surrounding the dump. I got into contact with Danielle from Camino Seguro who was a wonderful resource for us during the process. I let students know I had found a concrete way we could help and asked if they would like to do so. After some discussion students opted for a kickball tournament and invited all 8th graders to participate. Students determined that we should have each player on a team pay a $5 fee and that we should also offer concessions. They helped organize the details and run the tournament. I also relied on our great staff to help supervise and we also had a staff team that played the kids! With the money raised students wanted to donate books for their library. Originally we intended to send a mix of books we created and fund to purchase books, but we ran out of time for creating our own books this time. Students raised $277.75 from concessions and kickball teams and had a great time. It has been great to see students take ownership in the project and bring it to fruition!
By good fortune, I found out that the husband of our gym teacher had travelled to Guatemala to work with Potter's house. Potter's house also helps families living in or around the dump. He and his friend came in to talk about their work in Guatemala and discussed the 8 forms of poverty and provided a great engaging presentation for kids as well.
I loved that the framework of Esperanza then led into our 8th grade class exploring content, culture and social issues to a deeper level. It really made Spanish 1 material much more meaningful for me and the students. If you are looking for more ideas on social projects see Carrie Toth's post on Kiva.