Hiking & Hyperpolyglots

Let me introduce you to my fantasy self. She is an avid hiker. Weekends are spent camping under the stars, and she knows the trails in her area better than the roads to work. She can walk with a pack on her back for 20, 30, 40km without tiring. She spends more time outdoors than indoors, and when she is inside, dreams of inhaling fresh air and the light scent of gardenias floating through a field in the middle of nowhere.

I love my fantasy self. The problem is, she is not real. Don’t get me wrong- I have hiked before (500 miles*, in fact), and I spent much of my childhood running through the back woods of Maine: being covered in bug bites and scratches from blackberry bushes just meant it was a great day, filled with adventure and fun. I own a bevy of camping gear, and binge YT documentaries on the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and Continental Divide from time to time.

Continue reading “Hiking & Hyperpolyglots”

Yes to Pizza.

Once upon a time, there was a Spanish teacher who awakened very early one Friday morning and knew–without a doubt–that it was going to be an amazing day: no ifs, ands, or buts. As if cyberspace wanted to confirm this fact, by 5:30am the algorithms had led her to perhaps the #BestSongEverWritten.

She left the room and nearly missed the surprise ending, but ran back just in time to see it (watch to the end!). She felt an immediate and strong urge to share it with everyone who crossed her path that day; fortunately, she would meet with eight classes, so that wouldn’t be too difficult. It didn’t exactly align with the curriculum, but… yes to pizza. Always yes to pizza.

Then again, did it align? Could it? She wracked her brain. Classes were studying the Nazca Lines– massive geoglyphs in the Peruvian desert that appeared to be roads or trenches in every direction at ground level, but from the air… holy guacamole! They were designs of plants and animals, the longest a whopping 12 miles (20km) long!

The crazy thing was that they had been around for 2,000+ years, but weren’t really discovered or documented until aircrafts were invented. She imagined what it would have been like: “Flying over Peru, Roger that. Wait! A giant hummingbird, there is a giant hummingbird! And a spider! Mayday?!” [pause] “No, I don’t believe they intend to eat me.” “Should we send backup?” “No, I repeat–they do not appear to be an immediate threat. Over.”

In fact, drones and AI are helping to uncover new lines, previously gone unnoticed. In October of 2020, as explained by this article, a faint outline of a huge cat was discovered on the side of a mountain. 143 new geoglyphs have been discovered in the past two years, including one of a humanoid.

Students had been having difficulties imagining just how large these images were, so she planned to have them find the vehicles in the following photo. That would surely impress upon classes the immensity of their size. Wow!

Image Credit

So, pizza. Hmm. There had to be a way in; the song was just too good to hide away in a metaphorically dusty folder in the cloud. Another algorithm led to an animated gif, with a monkey, hummingbird, spider, and a… pizza?! Bingo!

The results of this Spanish lesson about pizza, ahem, Peru, speak for themselves, but she, for one, was very impressed.

Third graders tried making their own miniature deserts and geoglyphs with real sand and red paint (to mimic the reddish desert sand), but it was messier than anticipated: she wound up with red paint IN her hair, students all had red hands from dyeing the sand red, and thus the class switched from The Pizza Song on loop to Elmo’s Para bailar la bamba (because Elmo is red, in case you didn’t follow that non sequitur train of thought).

And since they were all in Peru, it felt like spending a moment at the sand dunes would be an inspired end to the week (best footage starts @3:09 below). After all of that virtual sand dune skiing, who’s hungry for pizza? Happy Friday! ¡Feliz viernes!

Teachers: Here is a more authentic/ traditional soundtrack for background music as students work if *gasp* you don’t like the pizza song.

Hibernation

A thick fog hangs like Spanish moss in the air. The air is cool; blurry palms stand quietly in the distance. Winter. Hibernation. Emerging from the cave–my cave–I squint as the first rays of dawn light up the horizon. How long have I been asleep? What did I dream?

We hibernate for myriad reasons. Sometimes this hiding away is a natural state: our energy slows with the seasons as we slide into a deeply restful period, refreshing and rejuvenating body and soul. Other times, we use hibernation as a means for safety or self-preservation, a sort of escapism, where–mandated or not–we become recluses to the world, avoiding and turning off a part of lives until we feel strong enough to reawaken, until we can face whatever it is we were running away from.

“Hibernation: a dormant state in which no food is taken; here, there is no need to nourish ourselves; we are already full and recognize the necessity to take time to digest thoughts, feelings, our past, present, and potential future. As animals- only occasionally rational, I would argue- hibernation is healthy; but rising from the ashes, like the mythical phoenix, remains imperative, a vital, compulsory, requisite aspect of living. So rest and recuperate, and hide away from the world- just don’t forget to come back! We return to the same place, but it is suddenly brand new, brilliantly alive and sparkling like the ocean waves on a hot summer’s day.

I stretch, and memories frozen in a past long ago begin to melt, ice sculptures suddenly visible, now vanishing: Platonic Forms. Bears are both powerful, herculean creatures and cuddly soft, a beautiful tension and delicate balance. Good morning, world.

“We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”

-T.S. Eliot

Peru- Nazca Lines

PERU: The Nazca Lines are a group of ancient geoglyphs in Peru. They are made out of naturally occurring elements, like rocks, stones, or earth. These trenches–running in all different directions in this part of Peru–appear to be roads from ground level. However, from an airplane, you can see that they are actually huge designs depicting anything from hummingbirds and lizards to astronauts and spiral shapes. Drones are helping to uncover even more in recent years.

HERE is one activity you can do in class or at home. Because my classroom was carpeted last year, students recreated these designs with masking tape on the floor.

LINKS: Nazca Lines Craft for Kids (Peru)New Nazca Lines Found (Peru), Nazca Lines Geocaching (Peru), Ancient Drawings Discovered (Peru)


Guatemala- Sawdust Carpets

GUATEMALA: Thousands of Catholics in Antigua, Guatemala join together during Lent each year to make colored sawdust carpets in preparation for Semana Santa, or Holy Week. In 2014, they broke the Guinness Book of World Records and made the longest sawdust carpet ever, at an astounding 6,600 feet.

In class, the art teacher drew stencils in pencil on colored bulletin board paper, and then students filled in the designs with colored sand. For more images of the real thing, see HERE. Student work from home (Continued Learning) is below.

LINKS: Sawdust Carpets-More (Guatemala)Sawdust Carpets- Video (Guatemala)Sawdust Carpets- AMAZING, Sawdust Carpet Stencil Patterns, Easter in Guatemala

This video shows what the process looks like (note: there is no sound).

Colombia- Guatapé

COLOMBIA: Is this the world’s most colorful town? Last year, students painted colorful buildings and houses on tri-folds, and set up the cardboard in two lines so that they could ‘walk’ through town, stopping at various businesses and mercados along the way. The Señor Wooly song, “¿Adónde vas?” worked well with this unit.

This year, students also learned about finger painting street art in Colombia, and then mimicked the style on their whiteboards. *Image Credit Jessica Devnani


In Guatapé, Colombia, there is also the famous Peñón de Guatapé–a 70-million-year-old rock that stands 656 feet high. Students did a long-division problem to figure out how many of them standing on their clones’ heads would be that tall, and then used Popsicle sticks to build the staircase up the side of the rock (or, in our case, the side of the classroom wall).

Felipe Salgado, Peñon de Guatapé, Colombia

Paraguay- Landfill Harmonic

PARAGUAY: Cateura is the name of a landfill in Paraguay where a town of people have taken a difficult situation–living in, quite literally, a dump–and made the best of it. They began by taking trash and repurposing it to build instruments, and now have an orchestra called Landfill Harmonic.

In class, students extended their study of forces, causes and effects to create their own instruments out of recycled materials. What sounds can you make with boxes, rubber bands, and a few old beads (or beans!)? Let’s get creative!

ASIDE: While Spanish is one of the official languages of Paraguay, Guaraní is as well–and, in fact, more people in Paraguay speak Guaraní than Spanish. It is very important to the life and culture there. Listen to the videos to hear what Guaraní sounds like. Mixing Spanish and English is often referred to as Spanglish, but mixing Spanish and Guaraní is called Jopara.

LINKS: Landfill Harmonic (Paraguay)Landfill Harmonic- Amazon (Paraguay), Landfill Harmonic YT (Paraguay)

“There’s a saying in Paraguay that people who visit always cry twice – once when they arrive and once when they leave.”


Brazil

If this is of interest, also be sure to check out the Brazilian artist Vik Muniz’s art HERE. He makes massive works of art all created from garbage. To give you an idea of the size, the pupil of her eye might be a tire. There is a film about it as well, called Wasteland, but I haven’t seen it yet, so be sure to preview before watching with children. He also does a peanut butter and jelly Mona Lisa, which is very cool!

Puerto Rico- Coquí Frog

PUERTO RICO: Students were so fascinated by the tiny size and loud voice of the Coquí frog (native to Puerto Rico), that they wanted to create a whole unit out of it. Diving into history, they learned that a long time ago, the Taíno people carved petroglyphs into rocks and caves, including a special symbol for the Coquí frog. To apply what they had learned, some students gathered natural materials outside and then drew the coquí symbol on the leaves and bark; others created a diorama with real dirt, sticks, and leaves (but fake frogs!); and others opted for the tree frog coloring page. Many were enchanted by The Legend of the Golden Coquí, and listened to the story repeatedly. THIS is also a fun story/description for kids about the idea that it “rains coquís“.

“In El Yunque National Rainforest, people claim that it rains coquís. This is somewhat true, but not technically accurate. The frogs are actually jumping out of the tree for reasons of survival. At certain times of the year, when the humidity is high, coquís climb up the tall trees of the forest.

As with many journeys, there are perils, and for the coquí the main danger is the tarantulas who lie in wait to eat them. They are smart little creatures, so to avoid the spiders, they jump from the trees instead of climbing back down, because they are so light that they just float to the ground. So if you are under a tree when they decide to descend, you could get caught in a coquí shower.” (Source)

Puerto Rico- Bioluminescence

PUERTO RICO: Bioluminescence is a natural phenomenon where “living organisms emit light”, oftentimes when disturbed. You have probably seen this on land–fireflies lighting up the night–but it can also occur in the water. Mosquito Bay in Vieques Puerto Rico is the brightest glowing bioluminescent bay in the world.

If you scribble on your hands with yellow florescent markers and put them under a blacklight, it produces a similar effect. Note: This made my hands itchy, so be sure to wash up immediately afterwards. There are also Bioluminescent Kayaking Tours available in some parts of the country to see it IRL.

LINKS: Bioluminescence1Bioluminescence2Bioluminescence3, Bioluminescence4Bioluminescence5Bioluminescence- Moana (Puerto Rico), Puerto Mosquito, Vieques Puerto RicoThe Glowing Bio Bay in Vieques (Puerto Rico)NY Post: Magical Bioluminescence (Australia; Puerto Rico)Six Places to Witness Bioluminescence (Puerto Rico)An Ocean Full of Stars (Puerto Rico)

Bioluminescence2Bioluminescence3, The Glowing Bio Bay in Vieques (Puerto Rico)NY Post: Magical Bioluminescence (Australia; Puerto Rico), Six Places to Witness Bioluminescence (Puerto Rico)An Ocean Full of Stars (Puerto Rico), Bioluminescence- Moana (Puerto Rico)

Sparking the Imagination

Good evening,

LET ME BEGIN with a general (but sincere) apology for not sending out thank-you notes yet to acknowledge your incredible generosity throughout the holiday season. Below please find a detailed list of excuses for the time lapse, along with a multi-step, absurdly elaborated enumeration of thought processes of fantastical concoctions of the imagination. #TooManyPrepositionsAlready #ForYourEntertainmentOnly

PART I: Detailed Excuses

1) So I went to the store to buy new thank-you notes because the ones I had weren’t artistically sufficient, but

2) I was running late as it was and then

3) my Train of Thought took me to other places and I missed the actual exit and

4) then there weren’t any parking spaces available and I couldn’t believe my eyes when

5) I saw a Bear–a REAL BEAR–but it was only as real as the VR videogame portrayed it to be (they say HD is clearer than real life, right?) and anyway, the bear appeared out of nowhere when I started playing on my phone while I was waiting for the guy to leave his parking spot and

6) then somebody honked at me and I got all flustered and stressed out and ate a chocolate bar and remembered that I needed milk at the grocery store so I pulled away but

7) then the gas light came on and I went to the station but it only took cash and so I went to the ATM and took out a few bucks but

8) by that time it had gotten dark and I decided that it was time to get going but then out of nowhere

9) I got caught in some quantum weirdness of a wormhole–a temporary condition?–and

10) a Grammarian Cop stopped me for writing this insanely long run-on sentence and then I finally made it home but

11) for the fourteenth time since the day before yesterday, I forgot to buy thank-you notes.

PART II: Absurdly Elaborated Thought Processes

(Several weeks later, after finally purchasing a set of cards to express my deepest gratitude.)

Step 1: I sit at my desk, pen in hand, and start, quite simply, with a handwritten note. Genuine, meaningful, and from the heart:

                           Mon Cher Ami (My Dear Friend)… 

Step 2: And then think– No! I need a better idea, a fun idea, something that the students will appreciate. Yes, that’s it! A 3D (4D?) pop-up Scrabble board type thank-you note that spells out “Thank you!” in 14 different languages!

Step 3: … that is covered in glitter and Dr. Seuss zig-zag staircases…

Step 4: … and is attached to a balloon that inflates by an automated voice command control when said family receives the package in their mailbox…

Step 5: … but that has a dart included to throw so that it doesn’t float away

Step 6: with all the safety precautions in place, of course.

Step 7: And maybe a drone could live-stream their reaction!

Step 8: And we could have a contest in real time of who throws the dart the fastest to pierce the balloon that was inflated by an automated voice command control to lower the package containing a card covered in glitter and Dr. Seuss zig-zag staircases that pops up into a 3D (4D?) Scrabble board that spells out “Thank you!” in 14 different languages.

Step 9: Hmmm, I wonder if I have the necessary coding skills to program an automated voice command. [Inner voice: Absolutely not.]

Step 10: BRRRRRING!!!!! The alarm clock sounds. It is 5am. Again. 

(Loud, automated voice over the intercom system): “Attention, all Gift Givers and Genuinely Thoughtful People. There will be a significant delay in the arrival of your personalized thank-you notes. They most certainly will not arrive on time. There is a slight chance that they may not arrive at all. With a swirl of hope and pixie dust, however, they may possibly arrive in the coming decade, in the time zone of Soon-ish. Again, we are not making any promises. Have a lovely evening.”

All kidding aside, your thoughtful gifts and kind words brought me much light and love, and for that I am inexpressibly grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Virtual Hugs to All,

-Srta. M.

Bolivia- Salt Flat

BOLIVIA: Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat formation in the world. During the rainy season, a light coat of water creates a perfect reflection of the sky–from sunrises and sunsets to beautiful starry nights. Students used watercolors to paint a sunrise on half of a sheet of paper, and then folded it over while still wet to create fun mirror-images.

Later, we all tasted a lot of salt and contrasted it with azúcar/sugar, and discussed how salt is a natural resource. HERE is a good read (with photos) called “Walk the Salar”. For more images, click this LINK.

LINKS: Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)Reflections from Uyuni Vimeo, World’s Largest Mirror (Bolivia)

Argentina- Southern Lights

ARGENTINA: Ushuaia, Argentina is the southernmost city in the world, and also a great place to view the Southern Lights. We tend to hear more about the Northern Lights simply because more people live close to the North Pole than the South Pole, but in the south they are just as beautiful!

In class, students created their own version (see LINK) of the “Southern Lights” out of black and white paper, chalk, and sparkles to further their color study. Here is the link we watched in class- skip to minute 1:49. The video is from Iceland, but it is the same atmospheric phenomenon in the south. Read more scientific info HERE.

Southern Spain ~ Andalucía

The unrelenting Spanish sun beat down on me as I wiped the sweat from my forehead for the umpteenth time, wondering what in the world 44*C was in Fahrenheit. [It turned out to be 110*F.] So this is why they have the siesta, I thought. My brother and I were the only ones walking around the city streets of Granada that afternoon, foolishly searching for tapas and a place to spend the night, when everything was very clearly closed. Scholar-me knew that the siesta existed, knew that it was a part of Spanish culture, but to live it was something entirely different. The “CERRADO” (closed) signs weren’t really necessary: heavy iron doors and gates prevented anyone from even looking inside.

Continue reading “Southern Spain ~ Andalucía”

Argentina- Yerba Mate

ARGENTINA: Yerba Mate Tea (“MAH-tay”) is the ‘friendship drink’ of South America, especially Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Paraguay. You drink the tea out of a gourd, and keep refilling it with hot water all day long to sip. The tea leaves are loose (not in a tea bag). It can be quite strong to some people. Students tasted it today and heard the Guaraní legend of how Mate came to be. A slightly different version of this legend in video form can be seen at this LINK. If you want to make more Mate at home, you can find it at most large grocery stores and also on Amazon HERE.

LINK: About Yerba Mate Tea (Argentina)

Short version of legend: The Goddess of the Moon comes to earth as a human, finding herself in the middle of the jungle at night and face to face with a ferocious jaguar that is ready to attack. She closes her eyes–expecting the worst–when she hears a man whispering to the jaguar in an unfamiliar language. The jaguar relaxes and does not attack the woman. The man says that the jungle is dangerous at night, and to come to his family’s hut and sleep there until morning. The man dreams that night that the woman leaves him a plant to thank him for saving her life. The plant’s leaves are meant to be ground into a tea and shared with friends to “[recreate]… the joy that is born when humans discover divinity in everyday life. When he awakens the following morning, the woman is gone but a plant is on her cot, as his dream foretold (source).

Long version (taken from this page HERE):

“A Guaraní legend has it that, once upon a time, there was a beautiful goddess with long black hair and skin as white as snow, who was so in love with human beings that she would spend hours and hours watching in fascination their every move from the skies above.

It was on a summer afternoon, at the scorching time of siesta, that she succeeded in convincing her father, the God of all gods, to let her walk at least for a few hours, secretly, through the infinite paths of red earth that go deep into the huge and thunderous waterfalls of the jungle in Misiones (2). Right there, humans, whom the goddess admired so, lived happily in huts made of straw and mud, in community and in contact with Mother Nature.

So it happened that, jumping for joy, that very night the goddess finally descended onto planet Earth. Her eyes wide open, like a little girl, and barefoot, so she could move more freely through the deep harmony of the thick vegetation, she ran gracefully like a gazelle, plunging herself into the scent of wild ferns and all sorts of herbs, smiling when listening to the many mysterious nocturnal sounds that inhabit the jungle.

It was while she was mesmerized with the buzzing sound that surrounded a beehive that, all of a sudden, a jaguar crossed her path. It stared and roared at her menacingly, with fierceness, getting ready to attack. The goddess was paralyzed with terror. Having become a human, she had lost all the powers that could have saved her from such a threat. She closed her eyes and mouth, expecting the worst. Yet, she heard a voice murmuring some meters away from where she was standing. Plucking up enough courage, she opened her eyes. And she saw a dark-skinned and brown-haired young man, dressed in a loincloth, who was on his knees close to the animal, whispering to its ear words in a strange language, which the goddess had never heard before. After a while, the jaguar eventually sat on its hind legs. Yawning, it shamelessly opened its mouth wide, inadvertently showing its ferocious teeth. It started to play with the lianas that hung in front of its head. The goddess understood that peace had been restored to the jungle.

“My name is Arami,” said the young man, while he petted the appeased feline and, at the same time, bowed before the girl.

“I thank you, Arami, for your help. I am Jasy, and the heavens will be eternally grateful to you for having saved my life,” replied the goddess, feeling a sudden rush of emotion.

“The sunrise is still some hours away, and it is not a good idea to walk in the jungle at this time of night. Let alone tonight, since darkness is deeper as there is no moon. If you wish so, you are welcome to rest in my family’s hut, Jasy.”

Hardly had Arami finished pronouncing the word “moon,” than the goddess had let slip the hint of a smile. Blushing, she had lowered her head and she had taken her hand to her mouth.

“Who might this strange and beautiful girl be?” wondered Arami, deeply intrigued.

Later that night, while he was sleeping, he dreamed the weirdest dream he had ever dreamed. He was floating over a huge, white and silvery lush forest. From behind, pale and extremely high despite towering trees, Jasy was watching him and smiling, with the same eyes and the same smile he had appreciated so much, hours before, while he was petting the jaguar. She was undoubtedly the same girl. Except that, in the dream, she was taller, so, so much taller, that her face rose above the jungle, reflecting on it a soft, brilliant and whitish light; and her hair was longer, so, so much longer and blacker, that it spread over the whole sky like a jet night where few stars shone. In a moment of clarity, Arami realized that, in truth, he was not floating but gliding over the white darkness while sitting comfortably on the palm of Jasy’s hand.

“As a reward for having saved me from the jaguar,” said Jasy to him, “tomorrow, when you wake up, you will find a new plant in the middle of your garden. Its name is Caá and, after toasting and grinding its leaves, you will make with it a special blend of tea you will come to call mate. You will share the drink with those people to whom your heart is attracted. With each sip that you and your friends drink, you will be recreating and manifesting the joy that is born when humans discover divinity in everyday life, a discovery that is as sacred and perfect as the roundness of my body navigating among the constellations.”

The next morning, Arami did not find Jasy on the improvised straw bed where she had slept. He did find, though, in the middle of his garden, the plant of yerba mate. He followed the instructions he had received in the dream and, finally, at sunset, he sat on the emerald-green grass growing from the red earth, and poured the ground leaves into a hollow, small gourd. He added hot water, slowly, very slowly. One, two, three and four sips, through a thin cane straw. As soon as the beverage began to enter his body, Arami thought he heard Jasy’s smile echoing in the fresh breeze that surrounded him. He raised his eyes, as if he wanted to find her. It was dusk. The whisper of the smile began to vanish, jutting into the night that was arising, towards the extreme East horizon. There, from behind thin clouds, the sharp reddish thread of a dazzling New Moon was beginning to shine its light over the lively green and thick jungle in Misiones.”

Black Sands

THE SADNESS rolls over me in waves, intermittent pulses gradually washing away the shoreline. I reach down for a handful of the volcanic black sand, and marvel at its odd grainy texture. Farther on, the sand turns pebbly—small, smooth stones pepper the ground mosaic. It is difficult to grasp how this ash was once part of a mountain: hot vapor, rock fragments, lava, and gas have transformed it into a bewitchingly beautiful landscape.

And yet, I also understand completely. It isn’t merely a matter of transportation, that of moving from one place to another—magma inside to volcanic ash outside; but rather this activity of an internal explosion, a pregnancy of creation, a fiery process turned cooled product. These constant bursts are my ultimate composition and makeup at my deepest level. They are me.

I cannot move away from or flee the sadness, for it will remain a part of me always in varying forms–memories etched into basalt columns of the heart; but I can transform the ache into something beautiful. Drowsy numbness, Keats? Begone! As the sadness cools to ash, I feel stronger. Lighter.

Nearing the shoreline, white frothy ocean spray nearly knocks me down this time; but I respond gleefully now, jumping in the waves.

The day is a cold, smoky gray, but I am warm inside. Just like the mountain.

Favorite Shirt

RAINY DAYS usually felt cozy, comforting: grayness squeezing her in a tight metaphorical hug, drops pelting the windowpane in a steady rhythm, staying inside with people she loved. But today was different. She was frustrated. Overwhelmed, perhaps. And for a seemingly nonsensical reason: her favorite shirt didn’t fit anymore. But everyone had one. You know the kind. It was the soft, stretchy, steel blue one, the one made of rayon that never wrinkled or shrunk in the dryer. It was the one that had a history all its own—one that had survived spaghetti sauce, Sharpie markers, long runs through the woods, and even a short bout with a toner cartridge that exploded when she shook it one summer afternoon (whoops). It was the one that made her feel loved, even when times got tough—one that helped her through tears from ex’s, a hypochondriac phase, and infuriating drama-filled emails and texts. And it never made her feel fat, even after she gorged herself on Chipotle and a pint of ice cream. No matter what day it was, she always felt good in it. That’s what made it her favorite shirt.

Except that now it was getting a little tight, and it itched sometimes, and even though it was her favorite, she had worn it to shreds. She needed a new one. Badly. But she didn’t want to let go. She needed to; she just didn’t want to.

The grayness squeezed her with doubts, consuming and strangling her thoughts: what if she couldn’t find a good replacement? What if the new one was only good, and not great? She had already gone shopping at several stores, but returned home exhausted and miserable. She couldn’t find what she was looking for.  Everything paled by comparison. Perhaps she didn’t know what she wanted. And yet, she knew that when she saw it, there would be no indecision, no question, simply a gut feeling and intuition that this was her new shirt. Sighing, she surrendered to the metronome-like pulse of raindrops outside, and decided to hope for the best. She would find a new favorite shirt. She had to. She would still keep the old one forever, and always remember it as her favorite shirt, but she had to go find a new one now.

My throat is parched and dry.  I thirst for adventure. مكتوب (Maktub, “It is written”).

Mexico- Hammocks

MEXICO: The Yucatan in Mexico is known for its hammock culture. Here, 2/3 of children sleep in hammocks instead of beds, and there are even hammocks in hospitals! For this challenge, string up your own DIY hammock with a sheet and twine/rope. Attach it to your bedpost, a chair, or even a tree outside. Be sure to ask your parents first so that you choose a safe place.

River of Joy

She took one last, lingering look around, slipped into the canoe, and pushed off. Aside from a few light water ripples, it was quiet that morning. The birds must be tired. She was tired. A coral sunrise painted wide brush strokes over the placid waters, bringing tears to her eyes. The woman wouldn’t admit to crying, though; she preferred thinking of it as, “liquid sunshine” [rain] rolling down her cheeks. It had been a wildly memorable year thus far, with extreme emotional roller-coaster rides for even the most even-tempered of characters. The quarantine seemed to have sped up life’s timeline, urging people to make difficult decisions and pursue projects they had been delaying or procrastinating on. It was probably for the best, this urgency, albeit an odd way to push the universe forward.

As she paddled, a light breeze wafted past, clearing the thick molasses of air for a moment; this was a humidity southerners knew all too well. She was going to miss this place. But in time, she had realized that she would miss the people much more: and yet, people didn’t simply frequent a place, they became the place, and the place became them. It felt like pieces of her were simultaneously spread out all over the world and also held deep inside. She kept a piece of everyone she had ever met in her soul, and she also left a piece of herself everywhere she traveled, somehow. It was an oxymoron of sorts, a puzzle–but also a comforting thought, that she was never very far away, and neither was anyone else.

In fact, she was exactly where she needed to be, and always would be, flowing on the river of joy. The stop on the bank had been longer than expected, but now the winds were picking up; it was time to get going. But oh, what a lovely place! Blue skies, fields of green. A true gem. A diamond. A rose. She would never forget. How deep the river runs…

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” -Rumi

The Struggle

I stared at it from across the room. It stared back, refusing to blink, trying to lure me into the game, stubborn as all get-out. Why were we at odds again? The gray mist had descended a few days back: tornado skies, sucking me into the center of their dangerously calm vortices: like the penny chutes at the airports, round and round went the coins, sans control and yet perfectly controlled, under the power of centripetal force until pfff–they were spat out, minus their dignity but exiting the funnel at last. Except that I was still swirling, furious at it. Emotions rocketed through my body. I won’t. I shan’t. I can’t. I refuse.

Continue reading “The Struggle”

Winter in Brussels

The flakes fell fast and heavy, quickly transforming the city skyline into an incomprehensible, wintry blur. She stood still inside the moving tram, watching silently; there were no words in her mind; she was absorbing the scene into her being.

Icelanders called this, “window-weather” (gluggaveður)—beautiful from a distance, provided the distance was indoors, adjacent to a fireplace, and within arm’s length of a hot mug of cocoa, of course. 

Continue reading “Winter in Brussels”

Minimalism

There has been an effort in recent years to quash inaccurate definitions of minimalism–to streamline, to declutter, to get to the heart of what exactly this movement and philosophy are all about. While extreme minimalists and ultralight packing lists may be awe-inspiring and provide shock-value, true minimalism is about one thing: getting rid of the superfluous in your life so that you can concentrate on what is most important.

Continue reading “Minimalism”

Peru- Amazon River

PERU: Ed Stafford walked the entire Amazon River on foot. It took him 860 days, or almost 3 years, to complete the walk. He faced every kind of imaginable danger, and oftentimes had to machete his way through brush, while wading up to his neck in water. Unbelievable but true! Watch the videos to learn more, or check out his book about the Amazon on Amazon HERE.

Costa Rica- Rainforest

COSTA RICA: Costa Rica is known for its biodiversity–flora and fauna abound. 18% of the world’s butterflies, for example, are found there. Multiple Lower School classes helped to create their own rainforest in my classroom closet last week, printing out photos of realistic wildlife, hanging green streamer vines, artificial flowers, and relevant stuffed animals (no giraffes!) in unexpected places, and planting cucumber and petunia seeds in flower pots (currently in the greenhouse); hopefully, there will be REAL plants in the rainforest in a few weeks. I added Christmas lights and a howler monkey soundtrack to enhance the general ambiance and magic of it all. Did you know that howler monkeys are among the loudest animals on Earth?

As a final touch, several fifth graders mixed blue food coloring and water in a bowl to replicate the famous Río Celeste (Blue River), a definite must-see if you travel there! Note that nearly all Lower School classes have been exploring and sightseeing in the rainforest this week. Some even bring their iPads to take Insta-worthy nature pics. If you would like to extend this project at home, HERE is one idea.

LINKS: Make a Tropical Blue Morpho Butterfly (Costa Rica), Mariposa Morpho Abriéndose, Río Celeste (Costa Rica)

Garoch

Featured Image Credit to Tommy Krombacher

Spain- Tapas

SPAIN: An exciting part of traveling is getting to see and try different types of foods. What is “normal” to you is “strange” to others, and vice-versa. In Spain, tapas—also called pinchos when pierced with toothpicks—are found in many restaurants. They are snacks arranged in small dishes, and have an interesting history: a long time ago, many people were illiterate, so travelers going from one inn to the next could not read the menus; instead, they were given little plates to sample different types of food before ordering their meal.

Pretend you are in Spain and recreate tapas in your own kitchen. There are countless options, so find a few that you like, and have a little fiesta, or party. Some ideas include mixed olives and cheese; skewers with pickles; fried baby squid; mushrooms sautéed in garlic and oil, etc.—see more options HERE. Enjoy!

Mexico- Crystal Caves

MEXICO: The Giant Crystal Cave is a cave connected to the Naica Mine in Mexico with massive crystals. The average person can only stay inside for ten minutes because there is 99% humidity, whoa!

For this challenge, grow your own crystals at home with Epsom salts, food coloring, and a bowl. Turn off the air conditioning if you want to enhance the cave simulation, haha! Skip to 5:23 in the video below to learn more.

LINKS: Cueva de los Cristales- Naica (Mexico), Naica Mine (Mexico)

Image Credit

Spain- La Alhambra

SPAIN: La Alhambra is a famous fort/palace with beautiful gardens in southern Spain. Many students enjoy trying to build this fort during class time out of cardboard, so why not make one at home? Build a huge fort tent out of blankets, pillows, and chairs, based on La Alhambra. Ask your parents where in your house would be a good place to build it (so that you don’t have to take it down right away or get in trouble).

Draw or print out a Spanish flag to wave, put on Spain’s National Anthem or your favorite song in Spanish, and get to work! This could become a really comfy place to watch Spanish cartoons or study Duolingo. NOTE: The video is historically-based, and more for older students.

LINKS: La Alhambra (Wikipedia)La Alhambra (Spain)La Alhambra, Fotos (Spain)La Alhambra (languages)

Peru- Boiling River

PERU: Deep in the Amazon there is a river… that actually boils. You can fill an empty mug with a teabag and have instant hot tea. Animals that fall in are instantly boiled. The average coffee is 130*F; this river has been measured at 210*F. Yikes! It is an awesome thing to behold- just don’t get too close. For more information, check out the videos below. Students boiled water in class, measured the temperature with a glass thermometer, and then converted the degrees from Celsius to Fahrenheit.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is external-content.duckduckgo-10.jpg
Andrés Ruzo– Photo from his book

Mexico- Chewing Gum

MEXICO: Making natural chewing gum is a fascinating, time-consuming, and dangerous job that dates back to the Mayas in the Yucatan. Chicleros climb high up to slash zig-zag patterns in the sapodilla trees with a machete, let the sap drain out, and then boil it until it turns into a thick paste, stirring all the while. They must be careful to avoid jaguars in the forest and falling machetes. Watch the videos below to learn more about this process.

Nicaragua- Volcano Boarding

NICARAGUA: Do you know what snowboarding is? Well, volcano boarding is just like that… except that you slide down the side of a volcano. Really! This is an extreme sport that began in Nicaragua fairly recently (2005). It is considered extreme due to the 40% gradient of the volcano–you are going straight down–but also because of the poisonous gases and the fact that the ash can cut your skin (you usually wear an orange suit to protect yourself).

Check out the video to see what it is like–and let me know if you find any VR apps to simulate the experience. This video at 0:25 is also awesome, but the background music is a little weird (FYI). Note that Cerro Negro is the only active volcano in the world where you can do this. Eeek!

Museum Gallery 2019-20

This is a digital collection of our Spanish art/science/history museum. The photos on the left-hand side are from real life and represent a cultural aspect of one of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries, while the right-hand side photos are what students did in class. Click on any of the images to enlarge them. Enjoy!


GUATEMALA

GUATEMALA: Thousands of Catholics in Antigua, Guatemala join together during Lent each year to make colored sawdust carpets in preparation for Semana Santa, or Holy Week. In 2014, they broke the Guinness Book of World Records and made the longest sawdust carpet ever, at an astounding 6,600 feet. Last year, the art teacher drew stencils in pencil on colored bulletin board paper, and then students filled in the designs with colored sand and glue. For more images of the real thing, see HERE. Student work from home (Continued Learning) is below.


PUERTO RICO

PUERTO RICO: Students were so fascinated by the tiny size and loud voice of the Coquí frog (native to Puerto Rico), that they wanted to create a whole unit out of it. Diving into history, they learned that a long time ago, the Taíno people carved petroglyphs into rocks and caves, including a special symbol for the Coquí frog. To apply what they had learned, some students gathered natural materials outside and then drew the coquí symbol on the leaves and bark; others created a diorama with real dirt, sticks, and leaves (but fake frogs!); and others opted for the tree frog coloring page. Many were enchanted by The Legend of the Golden Coquí, and listened to the story repeatedly.


SPAIN

Still Life with Game, Vegetables and Fruit, by Juan Sánchez Cotán; The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dalí; La vista de Toledo, by El Greco; Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez

SPAIN: El Prado in Madrid, Spain is one of the most famous museums in the world, housing over 27,000 objects and artworks. In fact, it was the Google Doodle just this week, which celebrated the museum’s 200th anniversary! For this exhibit, students took an 8.5×11 copy of Still Life with Game, Vegetables, and Fruit (the first Spanish still life, by Juan Sánchez Cotán) and transferred it by eye to a large trifold, trying to imagine how artists filled such massive canvases. Fourth graders did an amazing job here!

During the painting process, one student learned that the Prado was actually robbed in 2014— of a shocking 885 artworks. As a result, more than several classes were spent trying to merge their Spanish news show (including translated advertising slogans and commercial breaks) with an iMovie green screen breaking news “robbery” of their paintings in the style of Oceans 12. Ultimately, the project lost steam, but it was fun while it lasted! Here is the soundtrack we used.


CUBA/SPAIN

CUBA/SPAIN: In 1715, a fleet of Spanish ships sank off the coast of Florida, en route to Spain and loaded with treasure from the new world. Modern treasure hunters have discovered some of this lost treasure–one family made $4.5 million dollars in 2017!–but much still remains on the ocean floor. Students acted out this story as a class, and then made artifacts for a faux museum display. After painting the Spanish crest and flag on them, students broke a few of the plates intentionally to make it seem more realistic! More info HERE.


PERU

PERU: Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca in Quechua, has a unique composition–14 different, colorful minerals–that makes the mountain range appear like the inside of a jawbreaker. For more information, visit this link and scroll to “Top Facts”. While the class used THIS amazing, paint-pouring video to make a model of the mountain–crazy fun but really messy!–one student painted the middle image on a canvas (above). Wow!


BOLIVIA

BOLIVIA: Yungas Road in Bolivia is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. It is only 12 feet wide, and the elevation varies from 4,000 to 15,000 feet high. Yikes! Third graders made a miniature diorama of this road, and presented their research at the weekly assembly. Would you dare to ride on it? For videos, see THIS LINK.


SPAIN

SPAIN: Artwork by Joan Miró and a watercolor copy by a student. Look at THIS VIDEO PAINTING and THIS VIDEO PAINTING to understand what he sees.

Quote: “For me an object is something living. This cigarette or this box of matches contains a secret life much more intense than that of certain human beings./Para mí, un objeto es algo vivo. Este cigarrilo o esta caja de cerillos contiene una vida secreta mucho más intensa y apasionada que la de muchos seres humanos.” -Joan Miró


MEXICO

MEXICOAlebrijes are mythical-type creatures and spirit animals. You may remember the alebrije Dante if you have seen the movie Coco. The origin of this art had an interesting beginning (read below). Fifth graders created their own alebrije out of papier-mâché.

“In 1936, when he was 30 years old, [Pedro] Linares fell ill with a high fever, which caused him to hallucinate. In his fever dreams, he was in a forest with rocks and clouds, many of which turned into wild, unnaturally colored creatures, frequently featuring wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth and bulging eyes. He heard a crowd of voices repeating the nonsense word “alebrije.” After he recovered, he began to re-create the creatures he’d seen, using papier-mâché and cardboard” (Source).


SPAIN

SPAIN: Pamplona, Spain is perhaps most famous for its celebration of San Fermín and the annual Running of the Bulls. This tradition, although a huge part of Spanish culture, is highly controversial. Do you see the nobility of the beast and the elegance of the bullfight, or do you see animal cruelty? Whatever your stance, start a conversation and try to understand both perspectives. Here, a fifth grader researched bullfighting, and then built his own bullring- complete with real sand!


GUATEMALA

GUATEMALA: These are tiny Worry Dolls from Guatemala. Children make them and put them under their pillows at night to take away their worries (e.g., monsters, nightmares). Students were fascinated by these. They took a day to glue small pieces of fabric to balsa wood sticks, added a face, and soon afterwards, had their very own Worry Dolls. This Silly Billy video story is a great introduction.


SPAIN

SPAIN: The Camino de Santiago is a 500-mile hike across northern Spain. It takes about 30 days to complete on foot. You carry everything you need in a backpack, and follow the arrows and shells so you don’t get lost. Second graders made a very cool green screen video (click HERE) showing us their journey, while fifth graders opted to make a topographical representation of the walk.


CHILE

CHILE: Easter Island is an island located in the South Pacific. There are hundreds of massive statues and wooden tablets scattered over this landmass, but no one knows how they got there–it is a mystery! The tablets have a mysterious language written on them (called Rongorongo) that no one can read. Third graders carved 3-D models of the statues and wooden tablets with clay and toothpicks.


ARGENTINA

ARGENTINA: This terrifyingly high “Tren a las nubes” (Train to the Clouds) in Argentina is, well, terrifyingly high! Students are in the middle of creating a model of it out of Popsicle sticks.


SPAIN

SPAIN: Gazpacho is a delicious soup from Spain, and the perfect cold tomato dish to enjoy on a hot summer day. Third, fourth, and fifth graders took a day to celebrate La Tomatina, or tomato-throwing fight in Spain, by making Gazpacho in class. This is the recipe we used.


MEXICO

MEXICO: This pyramid is called “El Castillo” in Chichen Itza (2:19-2:36). It was built hundreds of years ago by the Maya civilization, but the amazing part here is that twice a year, exactly on the Spring and Fall equinoxes, a shadow appears that aligns perfectly with a serpent’s head. How did the Maya figure this out? For project ideas, one year Lower School students created almost 400 miniature cubes to literally build “El Castillo”. This year, third graders are using LED lights to create a shadow of the serpent’s tail inside a diorama.


SOUTH AMERICA

SOUTH AMERICA: The Andean Condor is the largest flying bird in the world. It weighs up to 33 pounds and can have a wingspan of nearly 11 feet. Last year, students tried to make a life-size replica of this massive bird with paper feathers, but ultimately tired of cutting them out. So many feathers!! This year, a fifth grader cut one out of cardboard and painted it–much more efficient! Now there will be time to explore legends based on Andean mythology and Incan folklore…


PUERTO RICO

PUERTO RICO: Bioluminescence is a natural phenomenon where “living organisms emit light”, oftentimes when disturbed. You have probably seen this on land–fireflies lighting up the night–but it can also occur in the water. Mosquito Bay in Vieques Puerto Rico is the brightest glowing bioluminescent bay in the world. If you scribble on your hands with yellow florescent markers and put them under a blacklight, it produces a similar effect. Note: This made my hands itchy, so be sure to wash up immediately afterwards.


SPAIN

SPAIN: Don Quijote de La Mancha is a world-renowned, 900-page novel from Spain, written by Miguel de Cervantes way back in the 1600’s. Centuries later, Picasso made a sketch of the two main characters to commemorate the novel’s 350th anniversary. First graders put a photocopy of this up to the window, placed pastel-colored paper on top of it, and then trace-scribbled the drawing with a Sharpie to create a two-tone replica. The class joke and icing on the cake was to cross out Picasso’s name and replace it with their own!


CHILE

CHILE: Chile’s Marble Caves are a truly beautiful natural wonder. Students mixed teal and green paints to capture different shades, and later added true-to-life purples and yellows to their paintings to accent the vibrant backdrop. This VIDEO describes the caves as “like being inside the Aurora Borealis”. Wow!


PERU

PERU: The Nazca Lines are a group of ancient geoglyphs in Peru. They are made out of naturally occurring elements, like rocks, stones, or earth. These trenches–running in all different directions in this part of Peru–appear to be roads from ground level. However, from an airplane, you can see that they are actually huge designs depicting anything from hummingbirds and lizards to astronauts and spiral shapes. Drones are helping to uncover even more in recent years. HERE is one activity you can do in class or at home. Students also recreated these designs with masking tape on the floor. Click this LINK for more pics and videos.


PANAMA

PANAMA: The Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands off of Panama are famous for a specific type of art, called molaMola means ‘blouse’ (or clothing) in the Kuna language. While women used to paint geometric designs on their bodies, nowadays the patterns come from nature—or, plants and animals—and are created with layers of fabric. Students opted to trace the mola patterns instead. This in itself took time, and gave them a glimpse into the detail-oriented, intricate work involved in the process. In a word, pacienciaHERE is a video to learn more.


ARGENTINA

ARGENTINAYerba Mate Tea is the ‘friendship drink’ of South America, especially Argentina Uruguay, Bolivia, and Paraguay. You drink the tea out of a gourd, and keep refilling it with hot water all day long to sip. The tea leaves are loose (not in a tea bag). It can be quite strong to some people. Fifth graders tasted it and heard the Guaraní legend of how Mate came to be.


BOLIVIA

BOLIVIA: Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat formation in the world. During the rainy season, a light coat of water creates a perfect reflection of the sky–from sunrises and sunsets to beautiful starry nights. Students used watercolors to paint a sunrise on half of a sheet of paper, and then folded it over while still wet to create fun mirror-images. Later, we all tasted a lot of salt and contrasted it with azúcar/sugar, and discussed how salt is a natural resource.


ECUADOR

ECUADOR: There are sneezing iguanas that live here… and actually sneeze! HERE is a hilarious video to put on loop. We blend cultures by using the Colombian practice of saying, “Salud, dinero, amor” (health, money, love) every time someone sneezes in class, and then listen to a classic song about “Las tres cosas” by Cristina y los Stop, link HERE.


COLOMBIA

COLOMBIA: Is this the world’s most colorful town? Students painted colorful buildings and houses on tri-folds, and set up the cardboard in two lines so that they can ‘walk’ through town, stopping at various businesses and mercados along the way. The Señor Wooly song, “¿Adónde vas?” works well with this unit. In Guatapé, Colombia, there is also the famous Peñón de Guatapé–a 70-million-year-old rock that stands 656 feet high–which somehow begs for a project. *Photo credit to photographer Jessica Devnani

For more links, videos, photos, and research about each of these places, visit the “Projects” page.

Panama- Mola

PANAMA: The Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands off of Panama are famous for a specific type of art, called mola. Mola means ‘blouse’ (or clothing) in the Kuna language. While women used to paint geometric designs on their bodies, nowadays the patterns come from nature—or, plants and animals—and are created with layers of fabric.

Students opted to trace the mola patterns instead. This in itself took time, and gave them a glimpse into the detail-oriented, intricate work involved in the process. In a word, paciencia.

The 15-Minute Class: A Synopsis (PK)

November: Because children are experiencing immersion in the target language, it is difficult to know when to send an update. They respond to me in class but may not bring home words to you; while frustrating, this is also completely natural: why would they speak to you in Spanish if you don’t speak it? They probably do not associate you with the target language. I hesitate in sending home word lists because in an immersive environment, each child will pick up something different each day. That said, I wanted to give you a general synopsis of what a day looks like for JK.

The 15-minute long class starts with a beginning-of-class song–Yo me llamo; Buenos días; or La araña pequeñita/Itsy Bitzy Spider; and as of this week, Feliz Navidad (Merry Christmas) and Mi hombre de nieve (Frosty the Snowman); progresses to actions (stand up, sit down, run or spin around, jump, etc.) and rhymes–Arriba, abajo, de lado a lado; Sí me gusta, no me gusta, para nada/Yes I like it, no I don’t, not at all–where we discuss things they like or dislike (e.g., fruit, ice cream, pizza) and do a quick weather report (this emerged because of the Itzy Bitzy Spider and sun/rain vocabulary); and then there is a magical chant–Abracadabra, pata de cabra, ¡chiquitipuf! I will call on a student to bring me a magic wand, and then we transform into various animals.

Some days, I choose the animals; other days, I will ask for suggestions/sugerencias. If they answer in English, I am happy they comprehended; if they answer in Spanish, I know that they have fully internalized the vocabulary and it is time to move on (too easy!). For example, at this point they have ALL mastered “tiburón“, or shark, and I have to think of creative ways to avoid this word or else the entire lesson reverts back to hungry sharks (Tengo hambre is another song here). When they can’t agree on an animal as a class, we will do a “lotería/lottery”, and they can do any animal they want (for about three seconds). I count up or down from five and they have to get back to their letter or animal on the carpet by the last number (cero/zero or cinco/five).

At this point, we are about halfway through the lesson, and it is time to continue our Adventures in Stuffed Animal World with their stuffed animal friend, Pato (a duck with a strong personality and ridiculous squeaky voice). Pato is always getting into some sort of mischief, and while not every lesson has a “moral of the story”, I try to lead it in that direction. The stories range from mini-stories, where I introduce new vocabulary, to full-on five-minute long sagas where I leave the JK room sweating from having exerted so much energy (between ventriloquism for the various stuffed animal characters and what can only be described as “extreme adventures”).

For example, I had been trying to shift their focus away from sharks to fish/pececitos, and so we went fishing with magnetic fish last week (another song here: Diez pececitos nadando en el río… link on Seesaw). The fish lesson led to water, where I sprinkled droplets of water/agua on their head/cabeza or hands/manitas (they chose), which led to me bringing an ice-pack to pass around and Pato taking on and off his sweater and scarf/bufanda because he couldn’t decide if he was hot or cold (tengo frío/tengo calor). I also brought a hair dryer so that they could feel the heat and experience the contrast between hot and cold.

Naturally, there was a Pocoyo cartoon episode about fishing–and one about pirates–and the pirate one was such a big hit that JK-A began a story about a pirate who lived on a boat and Pato needed help because he was swimming in the water but there was a ravenous shark nearby (which he saw through a telescope/catalejo)–and then I randomly received a phone call during the lesson (#truestory)–and claimed that it was the pirate calling me on his cell (of course!), and we took Saywer’s boot and used it as a boat for Pato to swim back to the main ship with his mapa/map–which tied in nicely with their map and community study in their regular classroom (*breath*). There was also a tesoro-tesoro-tesoro-TREASURE, but we have yet to flesh out that part of the story.

Students have been requesting to draw parts of the story on the board, so I will ask them tons of comprehension questions (Does he live in a big house or small house/casa grande o casa pequeña? Are there turtles/tortugas and snakes/serpientes and fish/pececitos in the water? Where is the pirate/pirata?, Is the house red/roja or azul/blue?, etc.), and they get to decide. Again, whether they respond in English or Spanish determines where we go. That said, comprehension is the most important thing right now, not production or output of the target language (though obviously, that makes my day when it happens).

Note: In JK-B, we have not gotten to a full story (only mini-stories), but we have started playing with names and nicknames because they wanted to know what their names were in Spanish. Some names translate directly–Josephine to Josefina–while others are actual words: Isla means “island” in Spanish. And some are just silly class jokes–fresa/strawberry for the Berry boys.

Anyway, at the end of class, we sing another song–Te amo, me amas and now this week, Estrellita/Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star–and then the children sit up straight and tall with their hands in their laps and we whisper to their classroom teacher, “Sorpresa” (surprise!) because they are so quiet and ready to continue with their day.

Are you beginning to understand how it would take me three hours every day to explain what has happened in our 15-minute Spanish class? I do apologize for the lack of Seesaw posts, but I tend to feel overwhelmed when trying to explain it all. Each day, I focus on recycling or spiraling old vocabulary and feeling out where they are and what they know, connecting new and old vocabulary, and/or adding brand new information. The latter can be in the form of a mini-story, science experiment, book, or Pocoyo cartoon. HERE is the Pirate episode link.

ASIDE: I do not like teaching colors, numbers, etc. explicitly in the traditional sense because it does not feel natural. You did not test your baby out of the womb on a list of colors, so neither will I. I will describe what is happening and what we are doing, and tell stories and ask questions in the target language, just as you spoke to your children before they knew how to talk. If your child is not bringing home words yet, please be patient.

We have had 39 classes so far this year, which is equivalent to 585 minutes, or 9.75 hours. Do you remember pressuring your child to speak less than 10 hours after they were born? I’m not trying to be cheeky here, just realistic. Remember to put things in perspective and celebrate anything they bring home! If you want to supplement their language study at home, make a habit of watching a Spanish cartoon every day for five or ten minutes with your child.

Whew! If you have read this far, thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to do so. And please let me know if you would like me to start putting recordings from time to time of songs we are working on in class, or vocabulary videos. Thanks and have a WONDERFUL WEEKEND!

Dominican Rep.- Defy Gravity

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: “Defy gravity in Barahona! In the southwestern part of the Dominican Republic, there is a town called Polo. There you can go challenge gravity at the Magnetic Pole (El Polo Magnético). If you stop your car in neutral gear downhill, your car will roll up! As cool as it sounds, this is what’s called a gravity hill. This is caused by an optical illusion that has to do with the shape of the road and the landscape. Still, pretty cool to experience in person!” (Source)

Fried Plantains- Patacones

Students made tostones or patacones (plantain chips) to taste in class, which are a very popular snack in Spanish-speaking countries. If you would like to make this delicious snack at home, HERE is a recipe. Another way to prepare them is for breakfast, as mangú (eaten especially in the Dominican Republic)–recipe HERE. See below for the etymological origin of this word and a fun story.

“The origin of mangú started back in 1916 when the Americans invaded the Dominican Republic; afterwards, the soldiers would go into town. Then one day, one of the soldiers wanted to taste some of the mashed plantains he saw the locals eat. When he tasted it, he said ‘Man, this is good’ and pointing at it, he said in short ‘man good!’. The locals thought that the name of the mashed plantains in English was mangú.” (Source)

Cuba/Spain- 1715 Shipwreck

CUBA/SPAIN: It is the year 1715–King Felipe V wants his treasure, and he wants it now. As a result, he demands that his Spanish fleet (of 12 ships) makes its way back from Cuba to Spain, even though it is hurricane season in the Caribbean. The 1715 fleet gets caught in a terrible storm and sinks, with 1500 sailors aboard–and the treasure is lost. Modern treasure hunters have discovered some of this lost treasure–one family made $4.5 million dollars in 2017!–but much still remains somewhere on the ocean floor. Students acted out this story as a class, and then made artifacts for a faux museum display. After painting the Spanish crest and flag on them, students broke a few of the plates intentionally to make it seem more realistic!

For treasure artifacts, try this repoussé video for coins; painting actual plates and dishware with the Spanish crest; stringing together gold and silver beads for necklaces; painting those cardboard stuffers you find inside boxes a silvery-gold-rose quartz hue; and finally, drawing old navigation maps on paper soaked in coffee (to give it an ‘old’ look). These can be as artistic as is possible for the age group you teach. Good luck!

In 1715, a fleet of Spanish ships sank off the coast of Florida, en route to Spain and loaded with treasure from the New World.

LINKS: Spanish Colonies (1715)

Venezuela- Lightning

VENEZUELA: Catatumbo Lightning is a naturally occurring phenomenon in Venezuela. Here, lightning strikes continuously above Lake Maracaibo for 140-160 nights per year (some sources say up to 300) for 10-12 hours straight each night. This can produce up to 40,000 strikes per night!

To learn more, read this article HERE!! Or, to make lightning in a bottle at home, try this experiment. Mystery History has some great photos HERE.

LINK: Catatumbo Lightning (Venezuela)

Mexico- Underwater Museum

MEXICO: In 2005, someone noticed that tourists, anchors, snorkelers, and divers were damaging the coral reefs in Mexico–in particular, the Manchones Reef. By 2013, an underwater museum (MUSA/Museo Subacuático de Arte) had been created around the reef, in order to help protect it. Currently, there are about 500 sculptures that have been placed in the ocean. In class, students took an old fish tank and made their own waterproof sculptures to place underwater. This was fantastic, until the tank started leaking! Beyond the physical representation, it would be easy to extend this project into a discussion about how observant and considerate we are of others and the world in which we live, particularly because the exhibit:

shows how humans can live with nature and make a workable future between the two, but also how humans have damaged nature, specifically the coral reefs, and show no sympathy. The statues in The Silent Evolution show how some humans see their surrounding and embrace [it] while others hide their faces. Each statue was made to resemble members of a local fishing community where Taylor lives. Each statue has its own personality and features. Taylor made sure every detail from the hair to the clothes of the statues was perfect. They include a little girl with a faint smile on her face looking up to the surface; six businessmen with their heads in the sand, not paying attention to their surroundings; and even a man behind a desk with his dog lying him, but looking tired and uninvolved in the environment.

LINKS: MUSA- Underwater Museum (Mexico)

Argentina- Iguazu Falls

ARGENTINA: Iguazú Falls is the largest set of waterfalls in the world. They are amazing- my friends and I even took a speedboat under the falls! Here is more information about them.

I also saw a baby coatí in almost every direction when visiting Las Cataratas de Iguazú/ Iguazú Falls in Argentina. They were running around everywhere. For more information on the coatí, visit THIS LINK.

LINK: Cataratas de Iguazú/ Iguazu Falls (Argentina)

Spain- El Prado

SPAIN: El Prado in Madrid, Spain is one of the most famous museums in the world, housing over 27,000 objects and artworks. In fact, it was the Google Doodle just this week, which celebrated the museum’s 200th anniversary! For this exhibit, students took an 8.5×11 copy of Still Life with Game, Vegetables, and Fruit (the first Spanish still life, by Juan Sánchez Cotán) and transferred it by eye to a large trifold, trying to imagine how artists filled such massive canvases. Fourth graders did an amazing job here! (See below.)

During the painting process, one student learned that the Prado was actually robbed in 2014— of a shocking 885 artworks. As a result, more than several classes were spent trying to merge their Spanish news show (including translated advertising slogans and commercial breaks) with an iMovie green screen breaking news “robbery” of their paintings in the style of Oceans 12. Ultimately, the project lost steam, but it was fun while it lasted! Here is the soundtrack we used.

La vista de Toledo, by El Greco (above)

The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dalí (above)

Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez (above)

Spain- Bullfighting

SPAIN: Pamplona, Spain is perhaps most famous for its celebration of San Fermín and the annual Running of the Bulls. This tradition, although a huge part of Spanish culture, is highly controversial. To learn more, read this Wikipedia or Scholastic article, and watch the YouTube video below about the Running of the Bulls. Next, try debating the topic with your family, and take time to listen to the feel of Paso Doble music (video below). Do you see the nobility of the beast and the elegance of the bullfight, or do you see animal cruelty? Whatever your stance, start a conversation and try to understand both perspectives.

LINKS: Bullfighter – Traditional Dress, Bullfighting (Wikipedia), Bullfighting (Scholastic)BullfightingSan Fermines in Pamplona (Spain)


Bullfighting- First Grade

A fighter takes part in a fight in the arena, where the bulls are slowly weakened and exhausted before their final execution. 6 bulls, and 3 fighters, take part in each fight with the outcome all but assured.

This morning, one first grader came to class excited about the idea of bulls/toros and bullfighting (Ferdinand influence?). As enthusiasm quickly spread to the rest of the class, Señorita recalled that she had a video of the “Running of the Bulls” down the city streets of Pamplona. Somehow, she was able to locate said file deep in the digital archives, and shared with children that she had been in Spain during this holiday of sorts a few years ago. Because children are only in first grade and it is a controversial topic, they were only exposed to the following information: 1) bulls are very large animals; 2) they run in the streets to the bullfighting arena; 3) the police set up two layers of VERY heavy duty, wooden fences to keep observers safe; and 4) this takes place in Spain.**

With this information, the class transformed the Spanish Cave into the streets of Pamplona and a bullfighting ring arena! One student found a sheet of reddish paper, named herself la torera, and took it upon herself to lead the bulls down the streets to the arena. Another student waved Spain’s flag to the beat of Spain’s National Anthem playing in the background. Amazing!

**NOTE: That real people actually run alongside the bulls (and can be badly injured) was not mentioned. Students were much more invested in pretending to be toros/bulls, anyway. That said, if you would like to continue this discussion at home, please feel free to watch Ferdinand the movie.

Ecuador- Sneezing Iguanas

ECUADOR: There are sneezing iguanas that live here… and actually sneeze! HERE is a hilarious video to put on loop. We blend cultures by using the Colombian practice of saying, “Salud, dinero, amor” (health, money, love) every time someone sneezes in class, and then listen to a classic song about “Las tres cosas” by Cristina y los Stop, link HERE.

And why do they sneeze? Check out this ARTICLE’S explanation. Interesting!

Mexico- Chichen Itza

MEXICO: This pyramid is called “El Castillo” in Chichen Itza (2:19-2:36). It was built hundreds of years ago by the Maya civilization, but the amazing part here is that twice a year, exactly on the Spring and Fall equinoxes, a shadow appears that aligns perfectly with a serpent’s head. How did the Maya figure this out?

For project ideas, one year Lower School students created almost 400 miniature cubes to literally build “El Castillo”. This year, third graders are using LED lights to create a shadow of the serpent’s tail inside a diorama. Aside: The video below is subtitled in Chinese, but narrated in English.

LINKS: Chichen Itza (Mexico)Chichen Itza (de noche)Chichen Itza (2:19-2:36)Pyramid/20 Story High Apt. Bldg.

Guatemala- Worry Dolls

GUATEMALA: These tiny Worry Dolls are from Guatemala. Children make them and put them under their pillows at night to take away their worries (e.g., monsters, nightmares). Students were fascinated by these. They took a day to glue small pieces of fabric to mini Popsicle sticks, added a face, and soon afterwards, had their very own Worry Dolls. This Silly Billy video story below is a great introduction. Aside: Adults make Worry Dolls, too!

LINK: Worry Dolls (Guatemala)

Newsletter 19-20, T1 (3)

December: Hoy en clase hablamos de otras culturas, perspectivas y tradiciones. Como una analogía, nos ponemos de pie en nuestras sillas para experimentar otra perspectiva: resulta el mismo cuarto, pero notamos cosas diferentes, igual que en inglés o español; el enfoque se ha cambiado. Para probar nuestro coraje/valentía, probamos unos insectos fritos hoy; en Mexico, hay 549 insectos comestibles y es normal para muchos comérselos, especialmente para la proteína. ¡Iiik! Aparte: Se puede comprar más insectos fritos en el “Candy Shop”, si les interesa.

November: Esta mañana, los niños del tercer grado querían ser chinchillas y decidieron hacer una banda. Les mostré el enlace arriba y les dije que podrían hacer sus propios instrumentos hechos de basura, igual que los niños inspiradores de Paraguay. Salieron hoy con tanta energía sobre el asunto que tenía que compartirlo con ustedes!! Ellos están muy emocionados, así que si ustedes tienen basura (cajas, cuencos, hilos, imanes, latas, etc.) que no quieren en casa, favor de donarla a nuestra clase. Ya veremos qué podemos crear!

September: Tercer grado ha estado aprendiendo sobre la Isla de Pascua (Chile). Los estudiantes hicieron estatuas de arcilla y tablillas de Rongorongo, un sistema de glifos (o idioma) que nadie ha podido descifrar—¡es un misterio!

Aquí hay más fotos de las estatuas de la Isla de Pascua y del sistema de glifos, o Rongorongo. Se dice que Rongorongo fue escrito en una manera muy eficiente; la técnica que ves en la penúltima diapositiva se llama bustrófedon (pero al revés porque está volteado también el texto en la segunda línea). WOW!

August: Por si acaso les interesa, esta es la canción que han oído en clase esta semana. Me gusta mucho. Es de la copa mundial (FÚTBOL) de 2010.

August: Vidriera de una catedral en España.
September: La semana pasada, hicimos gazpacho en clase para celebrar La Tomatina (España). En las palabras de Parker, “¡Gazpachoooooo!”

August Update: Students in this class adjusted well to the new rule of, “Un-dos-tres, ¡no inglés!” (One-two-three, no English!), although initially nervous about the idea. They began their immersive experience with a focus on cognados/cognates, or words that sound the same in both languages, to help ease the transition; for example, arte/artfamoso/famous, and catedral/cathedral are all relatively easy to muster a guess (though cathedral took a little longer). As there are, in fact, many cathedrals throughout Spain (among other countries), third graders took a few classes to transform my room into a cathedral with vidrieras, or stained-glass windows. These came out even better than expected, wow! They also listened to the song of the month, La Roja Baila, on loop. It is from the 2010 World Cup, and a lovely tune! Students also have been working on Duolingo at the beginning of every class, and took a day to celebrate La Tomatina and make gazpacho (a delicious soup from Spain). Yum!

Newsletter 19-20, T1 (PK)

October: La canción empieza al minuto 0:40. La hemos cantado varias veces en clase, pero hoy cambié la letra para que diga “[Un pez] estaba jugando cuando XXX [estudiante] lo atrapó, te voy a comer y se lo comió” mientras pescaban con la caña de pescar y unos peces magnéticos. ¡Qué divertido!

October: Students made Worry Dolls in class. In Guatemala, these dolls are traditionally placed under the pillow at night to take away one’s worries. The children were intrigued by these tiny dolls.

September: Hoy, los del preescolar vieron un MAPA de tesoro por primera vez por dos razones: 1) para hacer una conexión a lo que hacen con mapas y la comunidad en su salón; y 2) para seguir con las aventuras de Pato. Habrá varios problemas con los que se enfrenta Pato en su camino al tesoro—para empezar, un tiburón bailarín que tiene mucha hambre (después de haber bailado un montón). Pato ya sabe volar, o sea, ha aprendido a volar (para escaparse del tiburón), pero ahora su amigo Oso quiere acompañarle y por eso, habrá que usar un paracaídas, hecho de un filtro de café. Esto lo haremos la semana que viene. ¡Hasta la próxima!

September: Hoy en clase, Pato se encontró de nuevo en una situación difícil: el tiburón (que ves arriba) tenía mucha hambre y quería comer un sándwich de Pato. Las opciones de espaguetis, pizza y fruta no le apetecían a él para nada. Pero un pez (o sea, pescado!) y un pato, ¡qué rico! Como consecuencia, Pato siguió aprendiendo a volar para poder escaparse y huir del tiburón. Como que solo saben nadar los tiburones y no volar, Pato aquí tenía una ventaja, gracias a sus alas. Sin embargo, una herramienta no vale nada si no sabes cómo se usa. Por tanto, lo atamos a un hilo y practicaba hoy, el arte de volar. Mañana, planeamos en expandir su envergadura (“wingspan”) para que Pato pueda volar aun más lejos.

August: Hoy en clase, preescolar vio Pocoyo por primera vez. Este programa/ serie ha sido traducido en más de veinte idiomas, pero empezó originalmente en España. Había comentarios esta mañana así: “¡Pocoyo habla igual que tú!” Es bueno que empiecen a entender que yo no soy la única que habla español en este mundo.

August Update: Students have settled into a routine of songs to begin and end class (most notably, Yo me llamo, Buenos días, and Te amo, me amas); met several famed characters from the Spanish Cave, including Pato, Oso, and Changuito/Mono (a duck, bear, and monkey, respectively); and begun to adjust to the fact that I speak Spanish. Which is not English. Which sounds a bit different. They were tickled pink this week upon seeing the cartoon Pocoyo in Spanish, and hearing familiar words like “¡Hola!” and “¡Adiós!“. Please visit this page for more episodes, if you would like to watch at home with your child.

Mexico- Día de los Muertos

MEXICO: El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is a day to honor family members who have passed away. This tradition dates back to the Aztecs. People believe that spirits come back to visit us from Oct. 31-Nov. 2nd. The skeletons you see are very happy to be reunited with their loved ones. People make ofrendas, or altars, in their homes to remember and honor their dearly departed. The movie Coco is a great introduction to this Mexican holiday, as well as the cortometraje/short film below. Keep scrolling to see an infographic contrasting Halloween and the Day of the Dead–they are not the same!

More Links: Day of the Dead (video)Sugar Skulls (Mexico), DIY Tissue Paper Flowers, Day of the Dead Makeup Tutorial, Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos (cortometraje/short film for kids), Coco Official Trailer (Mexico), Day of the Dead (video), Día de los Muertos (Wikipedia), Día de los Muertos – ofrenda (Mexico), Sugar Skulls (Mexico)

South America- Condor

SOUTH AMERICA: The Andean Condor is the largest flying bird in the world. It weighs up to 33 pounds and can have a wingspan of nearly 11 feet. Students tried to make a life-size replica of this massive bird with paper feathers, but ultimately tired of cutting them out. So many feathers!

This year, a fifth grader cut one out of cardboard and painted it–much more efficient! Now there will be time to explore legends based on Andean mythology and Incan folklore.

LINK: Andean Condor (Chile)

Spain- El Camino

*Update: For photos of my Camino adventures, visit THIS PAGE. For more info about the pilgrimage, see HERE.

SPAIN: The Camino de Santiago is a 500-mile hike across northern Spain. It takes about 30 days to complete on foot. You carry everything you need in a backpack, and follow the arrows and shells so you don’t get lost. Second graders made a very cool green screen video (see below) showing us their journey, while fifth graders opted to make a topographical representation of the walk.

For this challenge, put arrows and shells all over the house, leading to your learning space or bedroom, like it is the Camino de Santiago. Feel free to pack a bag and go on a mini-hike with your parents walking around the block, if you feel like it. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes!

LINKS: Camino de Santiago (video), Los Pirineos (The Pyrenees)El Camino – Roncesvalles, A Journey to Spain’s Wild Western Edge, Finisterre (Spain), Men Risking their Lives for Barnacles (Spain), Human Planet: Spain Sea Harvest, Percebes (Spain), The Day We Ate Barnacles (Portugal; Spain)

Chile- Marble Caves

CHILE: Chile’s Marble Caves are a truly beautiful natural wonder. Students mixed teal and green paints to capture different shades, and later added true-to-life purples and yellows to their paintings to accent the vibrant backdrop. The author of the video below describes the caves as “like being inside the Aurora Borealis”. Wow!

LINKS: Marble Caves1Marble Caves2, Marble Caves FACTS, Cavernas de Mármol (Chile)Cuevas de Marmol (video)

Peru- Rainbow Mountain

PERU: Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca in Quechua, has a unique composition–14 different, colorful minerals–that makes the mountain range appear like the inside of a jawbreaker. While the class used the amazing, paint-pouring video below to make a model of the mountain–crazy fun but really messy!–one student painted the middle image on a canvas (above). Wow! For more information on Rainbow Mountain, visit this link. Here are a few more interesting facts:

LINKS: Vinicunca: Rainbow Mountain (Peru)

Spain- Don Quijote

SPAIN: Don Quijote de La Mancha is a world-renowned, 900-page novel from Spain, written by Miguel de Cervantes way back in the 1600’s. Centuries later, Picasso made a sketch (see below) of the two main characters to commemorate the novel’s 350th anniversary.

After hearing and acting out the famous windmill chapter in class, students put a photocopy of Picasso’s sketch up to the window, place pastel-colored paper on top of it, and then trace-scribble the drawing with a Sharpie to create a two-tone replica. The class joke and icing on the cake was to cross out Picasso’s name and replace it with their own!

LINKS: Don Quijote & Sancho Panza1Don Quijote & Sancho Panza2, Don Quijote: Cuentos Infantiles (Spain), Picasso painting, Windmills – ModernWindmills – Old Fashioned

Don Quijote: Don Quijote & Sancho Panza1Don Quijote & Sancho Panza2Don Quijote & Sancho Panza (Picasso)Don Quijote: Cuentos Infantiles (Spain)Picasso paintingWindmills – ModernWindmills – Old Fashioned

Chile- Easter Island

CHILE: Easter Island is an island located in the South Pacific. There are hundreds of massive statues and wooden tablets scattered over this landmass, but no one knows how they got there–it is a mystery! The tablets have a mysterious language written on them (called Rongorongo) that no one can read. Third graders carved 3-D models of the statues and wooden tablets with clay and toothpicks.

LINKS: Easter Island (Chile)Easter Island (Moai)Easter Island (Chile)Easter Island Moai (Wikipedia)Easter Island pic (Chile)Isla de Pascua/Easter Island, BoustrophedonReverse Boustrophedon, RongorongoRongorongo New Interpretation

Newsletter 13-14, Year (K)

Quarter 1: This term, students in kindergarten let their imaginations run wild. Straightforward, one-dimensional stories evolved into highly complex sagas, growing longer and more complicated from one week to the next. A new week merely indicated a new chapter. From a loud alarm clock brriiiiing that catapulted Pato across the Spanish Cave, to disappearing ink on the SMART board, to rubber duck witches materializing out of thin air, to an evil bat-ghost kidnapping a flower and bringing her to a tower in a faraway land (and, of course, the quest to rescue said flower), to Pato conquering his fear of heights and fear of the dark, to a short video about castañuelas/castanets, to hungry dragons, parachute fun, leaf collecting, Shadow Tag, and a cluster of grapes that turned out to be a bottle of purple paint—so that’s why Pato is sporting a purple beak these days…—the linguistic journey [clearly] never ceases to be original. Gracias for beginning the year on such a fast-paced and wonderfully creative note.

Quarter 2: This term, students in kindergarten continued creating wildly imaginative stories. However, instead of just passively listening to the comprehensible input, they began playing a more active role in the plots. For instance, in one adventure, the suspense of a crocodile on the point of devouring Pato led to a tangential activity, where students had fun simultaneously opening and closing hard cover books at different speeds, mimicking the scary jawbone action (abre/open; cierra/close). The consequent delay of his demise allows our beloved stuffed animal to discover a treasure chest full of balloons, and as a result, proudly parade around with a green bag of air—until he chances upon a box of thumbtacks. He is wisely advised by the anxious kindergarteners to not touch, but in the end, curiosity kills the source of entertainment. Students also drew out the sequence of events in La casa adormecida/The Napping House; played a detective hide-and-seek game; traveled outside to the playground, shouting, “¡Tobogán!” as they slid down the slide; and [repeatedly] listened to the theme song from Wreck-It Ralph, ¿Cuándo te volveré a ver? (When Will I See You Again?), after Pato decides to head south and escape the polar vortices. Finally, kindergarteners had several activity days, in which they could either jugar/play or colorear/color. Gracias for another brilliant quarter!

Quarter 3: This term, students in kindergarten learned that while Pato flew south for the winter, Oso had no intentions of leaving whatsoever; in fact, he was quite content to hibernate in his cueva/cave until the warm temperatures returned. While he slept, kindergarteners imagined what types of provisions he might be storing with him. Oso took a break one day from his busy schedule of siestas to report that he ate REAL eggs for his winter breakfasts. Students did not believe at first, and thus a thorough inspection took place. From shaking and then hearing the yolk jiggle inside, to cracking the eggshell and seeing a beautiful spider web pattern form, to finally smashing it, at last kindergarteners realized that it was most definitely not de plástico (¡Rompe el huevo!/break the egg!). Later on, students compared and contrasted the size and color of US money with Euros, and then ‘bought’ juguetes/toys, peluches/stuffed animals, or comida/food with their earnings; heard Ven a la carrera (Pocoyó) and Suéltalo (Frozen); and finally, received a real, live phone call one day, which informed that Pato was on his way home and eager to share his adventures with everyone. From talking parrots and not-so-scary dragons, to erupting volcanoes, magical lightning bugs and a shark that ended up eating the treasure, Pato had quite the story to share. What a great quarter!

Quarter 4: This term, students in kindergarten experienced the world from a duck’s perspective. However, it should be noted that this is not merely any duck, but rather the world-renowned, forever young, mischievous yet adorable stuffed animal Pato. Examples detailing his thought processes as follows: When Patito noisily sipped a large glass of water (consequently filling the plastic rubber duck cavity with liquid), Pato invented a game that resulted in a domino effect of markers, and beautiful water patterns and designs (chorro de agua/spurt of water). When Pato learned how to play Roca-papel-tijeras (Rock-paper-scissors) and Pollo-pollo-arroz/Chicken-chicken-rice, he asked to combine the two activities by making a mini-menu booklet, which later inspired an in-class restaurant simulation. When Pato tripped over a hairdryer and—believing it to be a monster caught in a spider’s web—began running for dear life, kindergarteners began to understand his unique point of view. Oh Pato, we love how you think! In addition to the lessons in perspective-taking, students also heard a new song in honor of the baby chicks that lived in their regular classroom (Los pollitos dicen pío pío pío); played Spanish Bingo; watched a few Pocoyó episodes; and read a book called El artista que pintó un caballo azul in order to inspire their own charming drawings. Gracias for an amazing year.