PARAGUAY:La Danza de La Botella, or Bottle Dance, is a traditional Paraguayan dance with unclear origins- although many say it is an offshoot of the galopa (a different folk dance). Dancers begin at a young age, balancing one glass bottle on their heads. As they gain more skill, more bottles are added. While four or five bottles is an absolute feat, some advance to as many as ten or eleven–see videos below. The top and final bottle has a ribbon of the flag colors of Paraguay tied on to it.
In class, students admired the Ñandutí lace on the dresses, enjoyed listening to the traditional Paraguayan polka music, and then attempted to balance books on their heads and walk around the room. (Not quite the same- but safety always comes first.) Regardless, it is harder than it looks!
URUGUAY: Obviously, we need to do some sort of amazing artistic project on this art studio turned hotel with no straight lines (in the entire edifice, as per the artist’s preference, Carlos Paez Vilaró). I was thinking of using marshmallows as our medium, but the temptation to eat them is just too great for elementary aged students. I will keep you posted.
PERU: When I first read Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist, I had a vague idea of what an oasis was. It seemed nice, but the concept felt distant and inaccessible–that is, until I stumbled onto an article about Huacachina, Peru. Granted, Coehlo describes an oasis in Egypt, but I would bet that there are similarities.
The Huacachina Oasis is the only oasis in South America, and as such, a huge tourist destination for sandboarding, dune boarding, and the like. It is located near Lima, the capital city. HERE is an official site about the oasis; after exploring virtually, the travel bug will invariably bite you. My apologies in advance!
URUGUAY: Aptly named, “La Calle de los Suspiros”, or Street of Sighs, this dot on the map leaves you aching for a slower pace of life. I took the BuqueBus ferry over from Buenos Aires and only spent a day here, but it was as though time had stopped completely. My memory of this day easily stretches to weeks, if not months, in my mind.
The cobblestone streets, Sycamore trees, lighthouse, and breezy winds from the Atlantic–coupled with a gourd of hot Yerba Mate tea (“MAH-tay”) and a few alfajores, of course–sweeps travelers into another world.
Image #1, Image #2, Image #3; all other photos are mine. Note that the huge, white, artistic-looking building is not in Colonia del Sacramento, but rather, Punta Ballena, Uruguay.
CHILE: Torres del Paine, Chile is a national park that covers nearly 500,000 acres of land. Its diverse wildlife, epic views, and sunrises and sunsets are among the most peaceful sights in the world. If you’re looking to “get back to nature”, this is the place to be.
In class, we cover a lot of territory. I am constantly throwing culture, geography, grammar–first graders don’t know it’s grammar, but it is–songs, new vocabulary, and more at them, with confidence that they will catch at least one new thing each day.
In the last update, you learned that students simulated walking the Camino de Santiago (a 500-mile hike across Spain), and then traveled to Peru to see Rainbow Mountain and also make and pan for oro/gold (aka tesoro/treasure). ASIDE: six weeks later, I am still discovering specks of gold fairy dust glitter everywhere!
As the weeks progressed, these culture projects morphed into optional centers: those that wanted to continue walking the Camino or sluicing sediment for gold could; and those that wanted to do something different also had that choice. My theory is that if students are interested and personally invested in an idea, they will be more likely 1) to retain the information; and 2) to apply that information to their daily lives, so that Spanish becomes a part of them, as opposed to ‘merely a class’.
First graders ‘sign up’ for these centers in one of two ways each class, via either speaking or writing. To build their confidence, we begin with written work: they will write, “Hi! This is So-and-So*. [Today] I want to build/play/work/walk [the Camino]/ sing/dance/draw/ fly/clean/paint/etc.” (¡Hola! Soy ___. Quiero construir/jugar/trabajar/ caminar/cantar/bailar/dibujar/volar/limpiar/pintar.) The focus as of late has been on “Quiero” (I want) and “y“. Note that the latter means “and” in Spanish, but is pronounced like the English letter “e”. *Students also chose Spanish names a while back, so sometimes they write their real name, and other times they will write their Spanish name. First graders are also now required to sign up for talking (hablar/to talk, speak). This has been extended recently to include specifying in which language–español/Spanish or inglés/English.
To make written work more enticing to six-year-olds, there were a few requirements: one, they had to glue or tape on a colorful stamp from a Spanish-speaking country (Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina) to their notecard; and two, they had to drop it in a basket pulley-system (that went up to the ceiling and down again) in order to “send” it to me at the Post Office. When this got old, we switched to writing on pizarras/ whiteboards, which was conveniently also a vocabulary word in the “Bathroom Song” (¿Puedo ir al baño?/Can I go to the bathroom?), a classic for first grade.
For each center, there are recommendations and suggestions, but they are also open-ended to allow for student agency and creativity. For example, “construir” (build) began quite literally, with first graders building towers out of blocks; this progressed to building houses and forts out of cardboard and blankets.
One day, however, someone wanted to “build” a computer out of cardboard. Another day, the “building” center became more of factory, in which students “built” paper fans (abanicos) and then tried to sell them to others (fake pesos). Yet another day, someone found a “sewing” center card (coser/to sew), and asked how to do that: we used a hole-puncher to make a ton of holes on a piece of folded paper, and students wove yarn through the holes, making their own wallets to stash dinero/money. We have even had mini ice-hockey tournaments in one class, and dance choreography lessons in the other! I will hide the puck and force linguistic interactions here: ¿Dónde está el disco?/Where is the puck?! You must understand, EVERYTHING is about language in my class!
The center work builds from kindergarten to spiral vocabulary and, gradually, first graders begin to see that the sky is the limit when it comes to creativity. Vocabulary is scaffolded to be as versatile as possible here; learning “hold-puncher” is not as useful as learning, “I want/I need that” (Quiero/Necesito eso), especially as students switch centers frequently, based on their interests.
More recently, students have practiced leading the class as the “teacher” (maestro/a) by asking and reading, “¿Cómo estás?” with several possible answers:
casado(a)/married (class joke);
tengo hambre/I’m hungry;
tengo frío/I’m cold;
muy bien/very good; or
Students will watch 2-minute Bluey shows in Spanish at the beginning of class as a listening activity as well; here, they raise their hand when they hear a word or phrase they know. First graders really enjoy this! A newer song is called Botas Perdidas/Lost Boots; here, first graders sit under the tables to watch the song, as the singer looks for thingsunder the table (debajo de la mesa), on top of the chair, etc.
Students also spent a day sorting flashcards (masculine/feminine nouns). This lesson usually comes about when I notice some getting sloppy with spelling; my goal is simply for first graders to pay more attention to words but also to expose them to grammar.
In class, it is a silly game, where there are “boy” words and “girl” words, and boys “get” ice-cream (el helado) but girls “get” pizza (la pizza), and then they try to figure out–detective work!–what the pattern is (“el” words are considered “boy” words; “la” words are “girl” words–but it is completely nonsensical in terms of the noun itself–merely a grammatical construction).
Last but not least, first graders were introduced to a language-learning app called Fun Spanish. This is also now a center option. Whew! Thank you for reading all of this. I did not intend for it to be so verbose. I hope you are having a great weekend!
CHILE: Futaleufú, Chile (in Patagonia) is perhaps most famous for its extreme water rafting. While this looks like the adventure of a lifetime, there are also plenty of other activities available for visitors there, should this fast-paced sport not, um, float your boat (bad pun). Click HERE for more information and to schedule a trip!
CHILE: In Santiago, Chile, stands the tallest skyscraper in all of South America. It is called both La Torre Costanera and the Gran Torre Santiago. While this 980 foot (300m) tall and 64-floor high building is impressive, there are plenty of extremely tall buildings around the world. The more interesting question, I think, is how were these constructed? How do they stand the test of time?
In class, students first looked at various architectural designs and a list of the tallest skyscrapers in South America. Later, classes had the opportunity to participate in the famous Marshmallow Challenge (“Reto de la nube”) to construct their own building in a small group. Did you know that this exercise is even used with company CEO’s to promote creative thinking? Interestingly enough, however, kindergarteners tend to outperform nearly all adults, but especially business graduate students.
In the Marshmallow Challenge, participants have exactly 18 minutes to try and build a free- stranding structure using only one yard of tape, one yard of string, 1 large marshmallow, and 20 pieces of spaghetti. The key is that the marshmallow has to be on the very top of the structure.
ASIDE: It is very possible that I may have given miniature marshmallows to students as a treat after the activity. What?! I did this project with first through fourth graders– there was no way they weren’t going to fight over and try to eat the one marshmallow!
Some teachers like to have a reflection discussion afterwards, and then do the same lesson again the following day to see what and how students work differently. Others stop the timer after about eight minutes, discuss as a class what is and is not working, and then get back to work (with 10 minutes remaining on the clock). If you sense there is a lot of frustration in the room, I would definitely recommend this second strategy. Have fun!
URUGUAY:La Mano de Punta del Este is a huge sculpture on the beach of a seaside resort called Punta del Este in Uruguay (on the Atlantic coast). It was constructed in 1982 by an artist, Mario Irarrázabal, when there was an art exhibition but no space for him to participate in the town. So… he went to the beach! The fingers are made out of steel bars, plastic, concrete, and metal mesh.
In class, we did not use steel bars; instead, kindergarten students smeared a piece of paper with glue, and then sprinkled real sand over it to recreate la playa/ the beach. Next, they smushed their palms (no splatting, please!) into a color paint of their choice, and put a handprint on the beach. It was a simple project–albeit messy, for sure–but helped students to connect with a country that they knew little to nothing about.
While waiting for their turn to make a handprint, kindergarteners “built” the Andes Mountains on my floor map with blocks, through much of South America. It was a good day!
PERU: La Rinconada is the highest city in the world. It is over three miles high (16,732 feet). It is also on top of a gold mine! For more details, check out this link HERE.
In class, students made their own tiny pieces of gold, while others tried to build a tower to the ceiling to represent “the highest city in the world”. You could definitely go more in depth here on the topic of mining with older students.
VENEZUELA: Heladería Coromoto in Merida, Venezuela, is home to 900 flavors of ice cream and a world record, at that! Have you ever been in a rut, and wanted to try something new, different, novel to get another perspective? Well, here is your chance! Try avocado ice cream with black beans; or trout ice cream; or perhaps spaghetti with cheese ice cream. Click HERE to learn more.
In class, students had fun dreaming up strange combinations of flavors, and even began ‘selling cones’ made out of colorful paper.
PARAGUAY: “Ñandutí, (Guaraní Indian: “spider web”), type of lace introduced into Paraguay by the Spaniards. It is generally characterized by a spoke-like structure of foundation threads upon which many basic patterns are embroidered.
This structure, resembling a spider web or the rays of the Sun, is usually made on a small circular cushion and is common in many Spanish countries. It is also found in drawn thread work. A comparable lace is made on the island of Tenerife and bears its name.” –Source
BOLIVIA: I read a book recently that took place primarily in the pantanal. It sounded fascinating–and I desperatedly want to do a project on it–but the lesson plan has not come to fruition quite yet. Check back in the future for more on this!
SOUTH & CENTRAL AMERICA:Fútbol is an important part of the culture in many Spanish-speaking countries. During the 2014 World Cup, I happened to be in Buenos Aires–and the city exploded with enthusiasm after advancing to the finals. It seemed like everyone was your best friend, whether you knew them or not. Horns honked for 24 hours straight, people waved flags out of cars, gorged themselves on pizza, and held their breath as Messi kicked… and Argentina beat the Netherlands in the semi-finals. Spoiler alert: Germany won in the finals.
In class, students travel outside to play “Spanish soccer” and truly live the language. Here, the only–I repeat, only–rule that really matters is that students speak shout and yell in Spanish. “Who plays defense? What counts as a red or yellow card? Are the teams fair?” Frankly, none of that is too important–as long as students are running back and forth, kicking a ball, and shouting in the target language, I am happy as a clam.
Each day, students sign up for what they want to do. They can be a futbolista/soccer player, portero(a)/ arquero(a)/ goalie, entrenador(a)/coach, or árbitro(a)/referee. The two teams (that represent Spanish-speaking countries) get into a circle and chant either, “¡Este partido, lo vamos a ganar!” (we’re going to win this game!/Spain), or “Ganamos, perdimos, igual nos divertimos” (we win, we lose, either way we have fun!/ Guatemala).
Next, a special “visiting coach” [student] leads the teams in warm-up exercises. Now it is game time! Students work hard to shout in Spanish continuously, while trying to score a goal. Key vocabulary: Por acá/over here; pásala/pass it; la tengo/I got it; soy portero(a)/I’m goalie; la pelota/the ball; ¡apúrate!/hurry up!; casi/almost; hace mucho calor/it’s really hot; no manos/no hands; suelo/ground; ¿Qué?/What?; Yo dije…/I said; agua/water. Speaking English results in a penalty (referees have students count backwards in Spanish 5-0 and ‘complain’ “Quiero jugar”/I want to play!).
At the end of class, the teams line up and say, “¡Buen partido!” (good game!). While Mondays and Thursdays are practices, Fridays are official games and ‘Facepaint Fridays’, where students safety-pin paper flags to their shirts and have the option to paint their faces their team colors. Spanish music plays frequently, to help create a truly immersive experience.
We win, we lose, either way we have fun! (Guatemala)
REPORTERO (un trabajo para alguien que no quiere o no puede jugar, por cualquier razón): “Fulanito tiene la pelota. Corre muy rápido. Patea la pelota y ¡GOOOOOOOL!” (narra lo que sucede en tiempo real)
CONSECUENCIAS: Números 10-0 (cuenta regresiva obligatoria, como consecuencia por 10 segunditos cuando hablen en inglés o por accidente o a propósito)
Mondays & Thursdays are practices, but Fridays are considered “official games”.
Here, students are welcome to paint stripes of their team’s Spanish-speaking flag on their cheeks.
They also have signs with their last name and favorite number to safety-pin to their shirts.
VENEZUELA: “For locals in the capital of Caracas, it is customary to strap on your roller skates and glide to Christmas mass. As legend has it, children go to bed with a piece of string tied round their toe and the other end dangling out of the window. As skaters roll past, they give the string a tug and children know that it’s time to, well, get their skates on” (source).
The streets are actually blockaded off each year so that families can roller-skate to Midnight Mass safely. People say this began as an alternative to sledding, since Venezuela is right on the equator and therefore quite warm in December. While I would not recommend roller-skating in the middle of the street in this country, you could go to a rink to skate!
ARGENTINA: In much of South and Central America, outdoor markets, or mercados, are a common sight to see. In Buenos Aires, we would spend our weekends wandering the ferias, taking in all of the sights (tables/blankets of items for as far as the eye could see), sounds (street musicians and Tango), and smells (dulce de leche, empanadas,asados/ parilladas, alfajores, choripán, Yerba Mate tea). A few of my favorites sights were flipbooks of San Telmo-Buenos Aires, a figurine of Don Quijote made out of recycled leather, and a street performer dressed entirely in gold paint that made me jump a mile when he moved after I had believed him to be a statue!
Dance is a very important part of the culture in many Spanish-speaking countries–from the Tango in Argentina and the Flamenco in Spain to the Merengue and Salsa in the Caribbean, dance brings everyone together. Virtual or not, we are all one big family, so let’s get up & dance!
In class, students watched two astounding young Salsa dancers and a dog dancing Salsa for inspiration (see below). While third and fourth graders learned the basic Salsa dance step, second graders focused more on the Tango and Merengue. Older students ended the year with a small fiesta–eating chips and salsa while dancing Salsa!
Virtual learners were given the challenge to dress up in a fancy outfit and record 5-10 seconds of them dancing to a song in Spanish (more music below). Naturally, we added an ‘out’, for the timid of heart.
In the Dominican Republic, there is a saying, “El que no baila, no come bizcocho,” which means, “He who does not dance, does not eat cake”.
However, we will make an exception to this rule today; for anyone who does NOT want to be recorded dancing, you may make a tres leches cake (or any kind of cake).
No matter the age, most students seem to love looking at different currencies from around the [Spanish-speaking] world. One day, my kindergarteners spent an entire class cutting out euros and pesos; I couldn’t get them to stop! As they get older, the conversation expands. Second graders, for example, looked at me like I had 14 heads when I showed them–using a currency converter–that $100 USD was equivalent to $377,530 Colombian pesos; but even with a huge question mark stamped on their brains (WHAT?!), they were still fascinated by the concept.
While comparing values of different currencies can be a fun exercise, challenges arise when trying to explain the why. If any educators (or financial gurus) out there have ideas about how to break down said information into easy to swallow, bite-sized chunks, please feel free to comment below!
ARGENTINA: We return to Argentina because it is a fascinating land of extremes: from the Southern Lights in Ushuaia, to Iguazu Falls in the north, there is something for everyone here. This week, we are focusing on the constantly changing street art of Argentina. When I lived there, I was amazed at how some of the walls were 4 inches of paint thick- many times, the murals would change overnight!
Here, classes began with an initial layer of ‘graffiti’ (writing words & sentences in Spanish on a huge sheet of paper), and then progressed to doodles, paintings (Xul Solar), and murals. Our goal is to layer the papers and see how thick our street art can get! We will cut out flip tabs to see the previous layers. Feel free to try this at home as well.
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.
COLOMBIA & BEYOND: Last year, second graders became very excitedabout minerals and gems. As a result, we spent time learning which minerals come from South and Central America, and then painted rocks to create amethysts and lapis lazuli look-a-likes. Several filled little cups of water and dyed the water various shades with food coloring.
This year, students studied geodes in their regular classroom, but I learned about it a smidgen too late to tap into the unit. Maybe next year?!
COLOMBIA: Is Guatapé, Colombia 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. *Image Credit Jessica Devnani & Saul Mercado
This year, students also learned about finger painting street art in Colombia, and then mimicked the style on their whiteboards. I have seen this done on mirrors as well, but use whatever you have:
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).
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.
“There’s a saying in Paraguay that people who visit always cry twice – once when they arrive and once when they leave.”
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!
BOLIVIA:Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat formation in the world. It is almost 11,000 square kilometers in area, with 10 billion tonnes of salt. During the rainy season, a light coat of water creates a perfect reflection of the sky–from sunrises and sunsets to beautiful starry nights. For a good read (with photos), check out this article entitled, “Walk the Salar“. For more images, click this LINK.
In class, 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. Some students even covered a small box with salt (and glue) to create their very own ‘salt hotel’. If you visit in real life, you can actually stay in a hotel made entirely of salt. How fun!
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 traveled to Ushuaia to see the Southern Lights, and then created their own version of the night sky out of black and white paper, chalk, and sparkles. We used this lesson plan, and also watched THIS in class. The video is from Iceland, but it is the same atmospheric phenomenon in the south. Read more scientific info HERE.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
ARGENTINA:Las cataratas de Iguazú, or Iguazú Falls, is the largest set of waterfalls in the world. “Iguazú” means “big water” in the Guaraní language. They are amazing- my friends and I even took a speedboat under the falls! Here is some basic information about them.
I also saw a baby coatí in almost every direction when visiting Las Cataratas de Iguazú/ Iguazú Falls in Argentina. These little guys were running around everywhere. For more information on the coatí, visit THIS LINK.
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. Check out this video compilation of “The World’s Most Extreme and Dangerous Railways”, including trains in Argentina (Tren a las nubes, 7:35), Ecuador (Nariz del diablo, 1:47), and Peru (Ferrocarril Central Andino). Oh my!
For more information on the railways of South America, read THIS ARTICLE or watch the “Tough Train Series: Across Bolivia The Pantanal to the Pacific” below.
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.
BOLIVIA: Yungas Road 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?
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!
Last 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.
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!
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 on Rainbow Mountain, visit this link. Here are a few quick facts from the aforementioned site:
In class, students painted their own versions of Rainbow Mountain and/or tried to build a super high tower with blocks to represent the highest city (La Rinconada). One year, a class used this amazing, paint-pouring technique–see video below–to make a model of the mountain. This was crazy fun but really messy! Another student enjoyed the project so much that he painted Vinicunca on a canvas at home just for fun (see below). Wow!