By Mr. Charlie Sellers, Spanish Faculty; Lindsay Davis, V Form; Tate Frederick, V Form; and Sydni Williams, IV Form
Extending Community During Social Distancing: Remote Experiential Learning in Spanish
Spanish is not for the classroom, and it is my hope that, after this year, all of my students will feel empowered to use their Spanish beyond St. Mark’s.– Mr. Charlie Sellers
During the final three weeks of Remote Learning, Spanish 4 students worked on a multi-step project called Estrechando Lazos/Making Connections. I asked students to pick a topic that in some way related to one of the units that we studied during remote learning: COVID-19 in the Spanish-Speaking World; Immigration: Assimilation and Alienation; and The Food Supply: the Migrant Farmworker in the United States. Students were asked to research the topic and find two to three relevant sources. Then, they tried to make contact with at least one person who is knowledgeable in the topic area. Students composed emails in Spanish to set up interviews using Zoom.
Experiential Learning is a large part of what we do at St. Mark’s, and what I have learned from participating in experiential programs at our school influenced how I set up the project. I relied substantially on what I learned from last year’s Fifth Form Lion Term Leaders, Colleen Worrell and Kim Berndt: Design Thinking; making contacts outside of the school; giving students choice in choosing topics; guiding them along the way; and helping them present their most salient takeaways in a final demonstration of learning. In the final week of school, students presented a culminating project of their choice that showed what they had learned. The students’ work exceeded my expectations.
The projects were diverse and relevant to the students’ interests. Fifth Former Sydney Williams interviewed both a family friend who is an immigration attorney and WBUR immigration reporter Shannon Dooling about the Dreamers and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. For her final product, she created a collage about the Dreamers and DACA. She wrote facts that she had learned from her interviews and research in images that she cut out of monarch butterflies and two stop signs. A symbol of the Dreamers, monarch butterflies pass freely over the US/Mexico border. She also included a dream catcher behind an image of the Statue of Liberty, and she superimposed these images on top of a background of the Dream Act.
Reina Wang, Emma Simon, and Si Jones reached out to friends at our partner school, The Grange School, in Santiago, Chile, to compare experiences during quarantine with their own. Raffa Bauer and Ty Kocienda compared the immigration experiences of Javicho Delgado, who worked in the United States as an undocumented immigrant before being deported to Peru, with those of Ty’s grandmother who immigrated from Puerto Rico. Siena Liberatore and Sarah Winters interviewed both Siena’s aunt, who runs a school in Salamanca, Spain, and my friend Sonia Mota, a Spanish teacher in Valencia, Spain, to learn more about COVID-19 and its impact in Spain.
Three students, Julia Lyles Cotter, Lindsay Davis, and Tate Frederick did significant research into the food supply in the United States. For their interviews, they spoke with Oscar Otzoy and Jordan Lake who work at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). In their articles, Lindsay and Tate express their hope to continue their work and raise awareness about the Food Supply and Migrant Workers in the United States next year.
This project motivated me to get in touch with friends in other parts of the world with whom I had not spoken in a long time. Sonia Mota and I worked together for three consecutive summers with Oxbridge Academic Programs. I was also able to coordinate student interviews with my friends in Ecuador, where I worked for two years after college at the Working Boys Center (WBC) in Quito, Ecuador, as well as at another humanitarian organization called Rostro de Cristo in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Elias Turk, Ryan Harper, and Alicia Souliotis spoke with members of both of these organizations in Ecuador, a country that has had one of the greatest numbers of cases of COVID-19 per capita in Latin America. Myriam Chasiluisa at the Working Boys Center spoke with students about the difficulty of quarantine in communities where people get by on what they can earn on a daily basis and the WBC’s efforts to bring meals to those in need. The students’ interview with Gabriela Beltrán at Rostro de Cristo was eye-opening. Gabriela provided a firsthand account of bodies left in the streets in addition to descriptions of hospitals and morgues that have exceeded their maximum capacities. While this was challenging information to hear, the interview made a strong impression on the students; they were able to draw a connection to a country we have read about in class and to put their own experiences during quarantine into perspective.In the fall, I wrote an article for LEO about establishing community in the Spanish classroom. As we finished the year, I asked students to further their notion of community and to use this project to make connections with communities outside of St. Mark’s. My hope is that this project will give some students ideas that they might want to pursue further in their independent projects in Sixth Form Lion Term and interests that they might want to explore in college and their future careers.
Final Project by Lindsay Davis:
Final Project by Tate Frederick:
Mr. Charlie Sellers is a member of the Modern Languages department. Before starting at St. Mark’s, Charles finished his Masters in Spanish at Middlebury College’s campus in Madrid, Spain. He is passionate about student-centered learning, service, and the Spanish Language.
Lindsay Davis is a V Form Student from Newton, Massachusetts. Her favorite subjects are religion and English. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, hiking, and running.
Tate Frederick is a V form boarding student from Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Her favorite subjects are biology and language, and she enjoys reading and playing tennis.
Sydni Williams is a IV form day student from Framingham, Massachusetts. She loves art of all genres, and she spends most of her time reading, writing and acting.