Central America Et Al

El Fútbol (Soccer)

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 … Continue reading El Fútbol (Soccer)

Argentina- Mercados

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 … Continue reading Argentina- Mercados

Salsa Dancing

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 … Continue reading Salsa Dancing

Different Currencies

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 … Continue reading Different Currencies

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 … Continue reading Guatemala- Sawdust Carpets

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 … Continue reading Puerto Rico- Coquí Frog

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. In class, we dyed different cups of … Continue reading Puerto Rico- Bioluminescence

Cuba- Holidays

CUBA: For New Year’s, many Cubans mop their houses from top to bottom, and fill up a bucket with the dirty water. Next, they dump this water in the street, as a symbolic gesture to “throw away” all of the bad stuff from this past year and begin anew. Later, they walk around the block … Continue reading Cuba- Holidays

Mexico- Radish Festival

MEXICO: Mexico has a lot of holiday traditions this time of year, but one particularly unique one is Noche de los Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) in Oaxaca. Here, people spend all day long carving radishes into beautifully intricate sculptures; they earn cash prizes for the best ones. Watch the videos to learn more, and … Continue reading Mexico- Radish Festival

Mexico- Hammocks

MEXICO: The Yucatan in Mexico is known for its hammock culture, especially amongst the indigenous Maya people. Here, 2/3 of children sleep in hammocks instead of beds, and there are even hammocks in hospitals! In the US, many hammocks are used outside; the difference is that these hammocks replace beds and are inside. Watch the … Continue reading Mexico- Hammocks

Mexico- Cinco de Mayo

MEXICO: Cinco de Mayo means “May 5th” in Spanish. It is celebrated especially in Puebla, Mexico, but has become popular in the United States to recognize Mexican culture in general. Historically, it is important because while Mexico’s army was the underdog and expected to lose a battle way back in 1862, the French & Napoleon (Francia/ … Continue reading Mexico- Cinco de Mayo

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 … Continue reading Costa Rica- Rainforest

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 … Continue reading Mexico- Crystal Caves

Nicaragua- Nik Wallenda

NICARAGUA: Nik Wallenda is a tightrope aerialist who recently (March of 2020) walked across an active volcano in Nicaragua. Watch the news clip below… and be amazed! If you work at a school with outdoor facilities, a class project to extend this could be to try slacklining a few inches above the ground (safety first!), … Continue reading Nicaragua- Nik Wallenda

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 … Continue reading Mexico- Chewing Gum

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 … Continue reading Nicaragua- Volcano Boarding

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 … Continue reading Panama- Mola

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 … Continue reading Dominican Rep.- Defy Gravity

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 … Continue reading Fried Plantains- Patacones

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 … Continue reading Cuba/Spain- 1715 Shipwreck

Cuba- Cuban Cars

CUBA: Cuban cars: the who, what, when, where, and why in the video! “Why Cuba’s Streets Are Filled With Classic Cars“.

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 … Continue reading Mexico- Underwater Museum

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 … Continue reading Mexico- Chichen Itza

Mexico- Alebrijes

MEXICO: Alebrijes 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 … Continue reading Mexico- Alebrijes

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 … Continue reading Guatemala- Worry Dolls

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 … Continue reading Mexico- Día de los Muertos

Mexico- Amate Paper

MEXICO: This is amate bark paper from Mexico. The Kid World Citizen blog has an article about amate paper and a great project how-to. Read below for a quick history of the art. LINKS: Amate Paintings (Mexico)