When Jennings Lodge Elementary in Milwaukie transformed into a bilingual immersion program last year, educators understood that language doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Their goal was to prepare students to become not only bilingual in both English and Spanish, but also bi-cultural through a variety of multicultural studies and developmentally appropriate curriculum. But with a limited budget and notoriously short attention spans, how do you find reference materials for cultural learning?
Jennings Lodge needed a cultural toolkit to bring this new language to life. Each classroom was encouraged to select WorldOregon Culture Boxes which represented a different Spanish-speaking country to supplement their mandated curriculum. The selected countries spanned three continents to include countries such as Bolivia, Mexico, Cuba, and Guatemala. Teachers then set about exploring their country's unique cultural heritage by reading Spanish storybooks, playing with homemade toys and musical instruments, exploring new currency, and even trying on traditional clothing. With tangible cultural items ready at hand, the opportunities for curriculum creation were endless.
Second grade assistant teacher, Tracy Deakin, was eager to share her own experiences traveling in Guatemala. In addition to the culture box items she was given, Tracy also incorporated her own handcrafts and photos which she had collected from her time living abroad. Being able to speak first hand about her experiences with students helped them to connect with foreign lands in a way that was not only accessible, but familiar. By using culture box items to explore the Spanish language, students began to form a kind of bi-cultural identity.
At the end of their studies, hundreds of friends, family, and comunity members gatherered at Jennings Lodge for the culminating Multicultural Night celebration. As students moved between the classrooms they carried a "passport" as a record of their cultural travels. Visitors were then encourages to explore the various classrooms to discover WorldOregon culture box items, class projects, artistic works, and sample relevant food from that country. Several students arrived with brightly colored traditional clothing to pay tribute to the country they had studied. As students rushed between classes with their friends, there was a palpable feeling of cultural celebration in the air.
Jennings Lodge students were eager to take on the role of "teacher" and share these new cultural insights with their parents. Their confidence began to grow as they freely interacted with teachers in both Spanish and English, all the while looking over their shoulder at their parents with pride and curiosity in their eyes.
"¿Lo entiendes, mamá?"
Do you understand, mom?
WorldOregon Culture Boxes
K-12 Students Interacting with Culture Box Cirriculum