Amazing Race Celebrates Mother Language Day

Amazing Race Celebrates International Mother Language Day
Posted on 02/26/2020
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Collage from Amazing Race eventLast week, Lakota high school students took their passports and went on a journey around the world – all in just about an hour.

To celebrate International Mother Language Day (February 21), over 2500 students took part in an Amazing Race-style competition to learn more about the languages offered at Lakota.

The Amazing Race had students singing in French, signing their name in American Sign Language (ASL), finding out just how many words are derived from Latin numbers and animals, and learning about the human towers of Catalonia.

The idea came out of a random five o-clock conversation between East and West language teachers. “With French and Spanish classes being taught right across the hall from my room, it’s made me interested in different languages,” said West ASL teacher Katie Nicol. So she brought up the idea of collaborating with other teachers to help spark that interest in students as well. “Until I started planning this event, I didn’t know that there were already many students actually taking two languages at the same time.”

East student Noah Keith, who takes both Latin and Spanish, liked that the Amazing Race touched on the culture that goes along with all of the languages. West Latin student Taysha Brune also found it interesting how all the different cultures are interconnected.

Each Amazing Race team consisted of at least one student from each of the languages taught at Lakota: ASL, French, Latin and Spanish. “It was cool mixing with students taking other languages,” said East’s Luma Alammouri. West’s Riley Haas agreed. “It was really unique to learn with other students; not only did I learn with them, but I got to teach my knowledge of ASL to them.” Haas plans on becoming an ASL teacher.

Other students liked how the event mixed pop culture with the learning environment in a friendly competition to win prizes. West Spanish student Gracie West enjoyed “learning in a different way where you are out of your classroom, up and moving, and doing something more fun than taking notes and sitting at a desk!”

The Amazing Race touched upon both communications and cultures standards. “We not only celebrated the cultures from all of the languages that we offer here at Lakota, but we worked on interpersonal skills as well,” said West Spanish teacher Tricia Becker.

“Survey results from students showed that their overall favorite part of the day was related to the ‘soft skills’ we would like Lakota graduates to have when they leave the K-12 environment,” said East ASL teacher Jessica Snyder. “In particular, they mentioned using leadership skills to teach people about the language they currently take and working with a team of people.”

West teacher Kelly Gohmann enjoyed seeing the students so engaged and was really impressed with how well the Amazing Race went. “Students got to meet the other teachers and be exposed to different languages and cultures. Perhaps it might even encourage them to take a second language as an elective.”

The Amazing Race will be held at the freshman and main campuses of both high schools next year. “Based on feedback, we are discussing incorporating the ESL department into next year’s Amazing Race,” said Snyder. “We would like to represent the diverse languages of the students throughout Lakota into a station.”

The planning team would also like to bring a version of the Amazing Race to the junior highs. “If students have a chance to touch each language, even if for just five minutes, it can help them make their decision about what electives to take freshman year,” said Nicol.

Starting with the 2020-2021 school year, ASL will be added to the course offerings at the freshman campuses, giving students four language choices as they enter high school. Lakota high schools will offer four years, including AP options, of coursework for ASL, French, Latin and Spanish. In grades 10-12, Spanish continues to be the most popular language choice with 46% of both East and West students taking the language. ASL has become the students’ next favorite choice, with 29% of East students and 36% of West students choosing to learn the language.

“The United Nations created Mother Language Day to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism,” said Snyder.Based on the feedback from students and staff, I think we accomplished that this year. We look forward to doing this again even bigger and better in the future.”