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Spanish and Service Learning in Valley County

After six weeks in Chile and spring breaks spent across the USA, Alzar School students have finally returned to campus and hit the ground running. Between busy class days, outdoor activity, PE, and even some spring skiing, the schedule has been jam-packed. But students haven’t forgotten their time in Chile, or the language skills they learned while abroad. Last week, students had the opportunity to share their experiences, as well as their language skills, with local elementary students in Valley County.

Students began planning their lessons in Spanish class. Each class prepared not only a short presentation on Chile, but also fun and engaging 15-minute lessons based on concepts recently studied in their Spanish classes. Spanish teachers Auriona East and Colin Hull encouraged their students to think outside the box, and students worked in small groups to develop lessons and materials for their classes. They prepared slideshows, poster-boards, cut-out figures, and fun games to help their soon-to-be students engage with the new content.

Ceilidh teaching Cascade fifth and sixth graders new Spanish phrases.

On Tuesday, students travelled to Donnelley Elementary School, where they taught in first, third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms. On Thursday, I joined students at Cascade Elementary School, where they taught fifth and sixth grade classrooms; following our time at the school, we headed to the Cascade Cultural Arts Center, where students taught a small group of homeschooled children of various ages.

The lessons at Cascade Elementary started with a brief slideshow in which Alzar School students presented on their experience in Chile. The students had the opportunity to share not only about the various different landscapes and environments that we travelled through, but also to discuss differences in Chilean cultural and lifestyle. The Spanish C class enthusiastically shared about the different foods that they ate in Chile, from empanadas to the famous lomo a lo pobre, a steak dish served with caramelized onions, French fries, and a fried egg. The Cascade students gobbled down the information as readily as they might have gobbled down one of the dishes displayed on their Smartboard; as the Alzar School students moved through their lesson, they reviewed new vocab. “What’s the word for soup? Or bread?” they asked the class. The local students perched on their knees, shouting sopa, pan, stretching their arms up into the air to be called on.

After the short presentations on Chile, the fifth and sixth graders split into four groups, rotating through stations planned by Alzar School students. One group of students taught a wonderful geography lesson, in which Cascade students competed against one another in a “trashketball” competition based on identifying new vocab. Another group had a vibrantly colored poster-board with illustrations of valleys, mountains, rivers, and more, which transitioned into a Pictionary game on the board. Students shouted the new vocab enthusiastically. “El rio, el sol, la montaña!” echoed through the locker-lined hallways.

Davis giving high-fives to his students as they master new Spanish vocabulary.

Another group practiced weather vocabulary with an animated game of charades, directed by the Spanish B students. A slight, blonde boy stood at the front of a table of his peers, violently shaking and chattering his teeth; “Hace frio!” his friends cried out, competing to be first to remember the new words. On the floor nearby, Spanish D students split their small group into clusters of two and three, and each group was tasked with arranging a cut-out house, tree, and person based on a Spanish phrase. “El hombre es lejos de la casa,” Ceilidh said, and an active brunette with a tie-dye sweatshirt on quickly grabbed the stick-figure man and placed him an arm’s length away from the house. Each student, whether from the Alzar School or from Cascade Elementary School, was active, engaged, and excited.

Reflecting on the experience over the course of the next few days, our students noted that teaching was incredibly fun, as well as exhausting. They returned to campus with a newfound appreciation for their Alzar School teachers, and the work each of us puts in to planning an engaging classroom discussion or activity.

But more importantly, they reflected on how exciting it had been to share their knowledge and experience with local students. They had offered the Cascade and Donnelly students a glimpse into Chilean culture, as well as an inspiration to continue to study language – and perhaps, one day, to use that language to connect with a new place, to make a new friend, and to expand their understanding of the world.

Chilean Flavor – Making Pebre in Choshuenco

While in Choshuenco, we eat at a wonderful local restaurant called El Rucapillán. Though the meals are filling and flavorful, my favorite part of dinner in Choshuenco is always the pebre. Pebre is a traditional Chilean salsa, often spicy and always delicious. Each night in Choshuenco, we find a different pebre on the table. Sometimes it’s mild and bright red; other nights, garlic-filled and salmon-colored, others still, spicy and pale pink. It complements every meal wonderfully, from simple bread and butter to sausage and bean stew. Since we first arrived in Choshuenco, I’ve been determined to learn how to make it. A stilted but successful conversation with the owners of the restaurant settled the plan for Sunday evening, just before dinner.

After a sun-filled afternoon on the beach of Lago Panguipulli, Emily and Allison decided to join me on my culinary adventure. We eagerly made our way to the restaurant, where Veronica ushered us into the kitchen. She was delighted to have three new American pupils, and immediately washed and organized the ingredients: seven or eight plump tomatoes, a handful of yellow ají peppers, a couple small green hot peppers, and two bell peppers. As Veronica sliced up the vegetables, she chatted with Emily, Allison, and I about our hometowns. We discovered that Veronica has a childhood friend who lives in Emily’s home state of New Jersey, and that TV shows have led Veronica to some strange assumptions about Allison’s home state of Texas. As we learned about each others’ hometowns, Veronica tossed the ingredients into a blender with half a cup of water, and pulsed the veggies into the rose-hued salsa that we all adore. She poured the fresh salsa into a large glass jar, and as our conversation drew to a close, we thought our simple lesson might be over.

But we still needed to add salt and the critically important ingredient, cilantro. Veronica hurried off, and I assumed she would return with a handful of cilantro from the fridge. Instead, she beckoned for us to follow her. Out of the kitchen and through the laundry room, we followed her into an alcove behind the restaurant, where we found ourselves surrounded by raised beds. She bent down and plucked a few leaves off of a plant, brought them to her nose, then ours – fresh oregano!

We proceeded to follow her on a tour of the garden. Inside a small greenhouse, cucumbers and tomatoes climbed towards the ceiling and basil grew steadily; beside the greenhouse, squash and zucchini plants flowered. Veronica pointed out the herbs in the raised beds lining the restaurant wall: cilantro, oregano, a local variety of rosemary, and many more. She picked a handful of cilantro and a pinch of rosemary. We munched on a freshly plucked cucumber as she told us that the restaurant uses herbs and vegetables from their garden as much as possible – especially when they make fresh pebre.

Back in the kitchen, Veronica briskly chopped up the herbs and added them to jar. After a heaping spoonful of salt, the pebre was complete. We each tasted a small spoonful, oohing and aahing over the perfect freshness and spiciness. Veronica was delighted, and we left the restaurant a small bowl of pebre all for ourselves – as well as a great new friend!

At dinner, with bowls of our freshly prepared pebre on the table, Emily and Allison chatted with their friends about the recipe, making plans to prepare it at home for their families. “We should make it in the cabanas!” said one of their housemates. Everyone was excited to practice the new recipe, in Chile and back at home. It was a fabulous end to our weekend of paddling and roll practice, a wonderful moment of cross-cultural learning to conclude our final weekend in the Lakes District.

Written by: Angelica Calabrese

Chile: The Parallel Progression of Spanish Speaking and Kayaking

As our time in the Lake District comes to a close, we have traveled 5 hours south to embark on our final Chilean expeditions. Our time in the Lake District was split up between the students focusing on cultural exchange and improving their technical kayak skills.

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For some of the students, this is their first time in a foreign country and also their first time in a kayak. Skills in both of these are built by a progression; for example, in the student’s Spanish A classes, they learned vocabulary appropriate for the environment that they were in. When we were flying into Santiago, the students were learning airplane vocabulary and words that they would need in order to travel through an airport.

Students of all levels of Spanish speaking ability have had room to grow and improve; not just the beginners. Through conversational challenges in the towns and interacting with the locals in soccer games, students have been pushed out of their comfort zones in order to improve their fluency. Both beginner and advanced students need a foundation of basic skill that they can build upon in order to improve overall.

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Like this progression of confidence in a foreign language, the students who were new to kayaking also needed to start from a foundation of skill in order to grow. Students in Choshuenco spent time practicing the basic paddle strokes of kayaking on the flat water of the lake before going out on the white water of the Rio Fue and the Enco. Students also learned how to safely exit a kayak and some mastered their roll.

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These past few weeks in the Lake District of Chile have been essential in the progression of the students’ confidence in cultural exchange as well as their confidence on the water. These skills are not learned and perfected overnight; it takes time to build upon past experiences in order to master a certain amount of expertise in these skills.

This final expedition on the Petrohue River challenges students to use the basic skills they have learned on the lake and rivers in Choshuenco. This river is larger and faster than what they have been training on, and will help them further improve their skills for the waters of Idaho.

I know that this growth is only the beginning for these students, with both kayaking and Spanish speaking. Students will continue to learn not only in their Spanish classes, but also on the water in Idaho. Chile has been just a glimpse of what these students are capable of; I look forward to continue to watch them exceed my expectations.

Here is a video summing up our highlights in Choshuenco and Neltume!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7innJTxn9w&feature=youtu.be

Culture and Cooking – the Everyday Lessons

This past Saturday our students attended a cooking lesson in Neltume.

As a little backstory, we've never taken cooking classes in Neltume before. We've always taken them at this sweet, little restaurant in Choshuenco with this wonderful woman named Erica. But, this semester, we wanted to branch out. As I'm sure everyone can guess, the first time we try something new here, we have no idea how it will go. There are so many moving parts. Has this woman ever taught a cooking lesson before? Does she like children? Does she want money for it? Will the kids be respectful? Will the kids genuinely attempt to connect with these women who are so different from them yet so similar? Will the kids learn? Because, we don't just take a cooking class to learn how to make a traditional, Chilean dish. We take cooking classes to practice open-mindedness, to experience the minutia that culminate in a foreign culture, to improve our Spanish, to learn humility, to gain comfort in uncomfortable moments.

I feel comfortable saying that, last week, we succeeded on all fronts.

cooking 1Ana María and Isabel, the two Chefs at the restaurant where we eat dinner every night, were gems. Ana made sure to verbally and visually walk students through all the steps they'd be in charge of. They were dicing onions. They were shredding carrots, skinning tomatoes, and hand-sawing (yes, I said hand-sawing) pumpkins. The kids learned how to cook sausage "the Chilean way", and they ultimately learned how to make a traditional dish simply called "Porotos", which means "beans", that we then ate for dinner. In case you were wondering, it was delicious.

More importantly, however, they learned how long the women had been professional cooks. What they did in their down-time. How they liked to play and tease. I told them our students were practicing big numbers, and Ana María listened as one student struggled to say "4,233 shreds of carrot". Isabel slowly explained why we prepare the vegetables in a specific way. The students learned that she is also a guitarist and singer in a folkloric band that has traveled all the way to Argentina on tour. We got to listen to her music on CD as Isabel sang and swayed along. They taught us the Mapuche dance "Cueca", and we all tried our hand. They ate dinner with us. They asked to take photos together at the end.

We laughed a lot together, and we laughed maybe more at ourselves. I left that night feeling fed in many ways. I'm so proud that our students are challenging themselves, embracing new opportunities, and having fun along the way. We have three weeks left in Chile. I can't wait to see how else they'll grow.

The Rio Baker: a Chilean Expedition

Kayaking 150 kilometers is not an easy feat, and also not part of the everyday life of the average high school student. This unique lifestyle is very common in the day to day life of an Alzar School student. Through completing this challenging goal, the students fulfilled the six Foundations of the Alzar School; these elements include academics, outdoor adventure, environmental stewardship, cultural exchange, leadership training, and service learning.

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The students on this expedition woke up early each morning in order to pack all their personal gear, complete their daily chores, and get the group prepared for embarking on the river each morning. Through this outdoor adventure of paddling on the river, these students fostered a relationship with the environment and learned how to leave as little trace as possible moving from one campsite to the next.

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At the end of a long day of paddling through the beautiful wilderness of the Baker River, students would have an hour or so to complete schoolwork on their iPads. Each night a subject is assigned in which all the students complete work in that particular subject.

Two students from Los Escualos, a local kayaking club here in Cochrane, joined us for the entire expedition. They joined us for meals, leadership debriefs, and participated in other group activities on and off the river. Our Alzar School students were forced to go out of their comfort zones in order to communicate with the se students on a daily basis, and strengthened their Spanish skills socially and dynamically.

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Leaders of the day (LODs) are assigned every two days and are in charge of facilitating the group and guiding them through different tasks, such as chores, meals, and explaining the overall schedule and goals for the next few days. Each evening, the group comes together to debrief the progress of the LODs that specific day, focusing on specific instances that show either a positive aspect of the 10 Elements of Leadership, or a delta, which is something that can be changed or worked on in the future.

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It is essential for students to complete their chores in a timely manner in order for them to be set up for success during the day. This service learning is integral to the big picture of the expedition and the success of each day.

This expedition is just a glimpse into the daily life of an Alzar School Student and the uniqueness of this semester school. We are about to embark on another expedition before we spend time in the cities strictly taking classes, participating in cultural activities, and strengthening hard skills in white water kayaking. When we need a classroom, the world awaits.