Celebrating heritages other than our own is an important aspect of the Locust Valley Central School District world languages program. Recently, students at the middle school and high school learned about other cultures in unique ways.
Starting with Hispanic Heritage month in October, students celebrated with foods, crafts and games common in a variety of Hispanic cultures. The MS/HS Mini Theater was set up with stations that middle school students rotated through for the full experience. At one table, visitors made taino rocks, a form of rock art with roots in Puerto Rico. Examples were provided and student artists could paint meaningful designs on their own rocks.
Other stations helped children learn about Peruvian quipu knots, or talking knots, which are recording devices fashioned from string, and Guatemalan worry dolls, which legend says helps children lessen their worries by telling them to the dolls. Children also played word games, including the toma todo game, using a traditional Mexican six-sided top with instructions on each side. Players improve their Spanish language skills by following the directions after spinning the top.
A highlight of the event was the tasting table, which offered small bites of tres leches cake, pupusas, tamales, tostones with guacamole, coffee candy, buñuelo, almojábanas and mini-empanadas.
The latter half of October included Italian Heritage Month, during which middle and high school Italian students were treated to a performance by opera singers visiting from Italy. Following the performance, students used their Italian language skills to ask the performers questions.
The culmination of the cultural celebrations was learning about the Mexican celebration Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Middle school Spanish classes watched a video explaining the tradition, which includes creating an altar to honor family and friends who have died. The students decorated their own sugar skulls, which in the Mexican culture are placed on the altars after being adorned with bright, colorful designs.
Amy Watson, coordinator of world languages and ENL, organized these celebrations. “It is important that students not only learn the languages they are studying, but that they also learn about, understand and respect different cultures,” she said. “Eating traditional foods, playing games that their peers in other countries would play and learning about holidays is a wonderful way to immerse them in other cultures.”