September: This month, students in fourth grade learned that they will be participating in a yearlong town simulation. Their first stop was Argentina, where fourth graders explored the history of Yerba Mate, or ‘the friendship drink’ of South America via photos and physical cultural artifacts, and later were able to taste the strong, somewhat bitter (but delicious!) tea. Then, it was time to travel again: after grabbing their passports, boarding passes, and luggage from the Locker Bay; removing their zapatos/shoes for the infamous TSA security screening process; watching a bilingual ‘safety instructions’ video; enjoying snacks—goldfish and water—from the stewardess during the flight; and experiencing a tiny bit of turbulence, students finally arrived in Madrid, the capital of Spain.
Then, it was only a matter of deciphering the puzzling (but authentic) city map, a quick trip on the Metro (Subway) and a three-hour train ride (Renfe) through the Andalusian countryside (see all the olive trees?!), before students settled in what is to be their new home: Granada, España/Spain. The intense summer heat of southern Spain was reflected (bad pun) in the covered streets—colorful sheet canopies high above protect the city from the urban heat effect. Students left their baggage at the hotel, noticed the famous Moorish palace (La Alhambra) across the street (beautiful!), and set about their first set of business: deciding where to live and drawing up floorplans of the inside of their new homes. Yay! Fourth graders also practiced acting out their passwords, in order to associate a specific motion with each word.