Lakota Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Lakota Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
Posted on 10/19/2020
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hispanic heritage month activitiesNational Hispanic Heritage Month took place from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, and schools around the district held their own unique programs to honor the histories, cultures and contributions of those from Latin American countries. Lakota students represent 14 of those Hispanic countries and they make up 9.6% of the student population.

“Hispanic Heritage Month gives us an opportunity to highlight the rich diversity not only in our schools, but in our community and in our country at large,” said Leah Aguilar, the parent engagement and community outreach coordinator for Lakota’s Outreach Diversity and Inclusion (LODI) department. “It allows our staff, students and families to see their ethnicity and culture as one of the many strengths that we embrace.”

At Wyandot Early Childhood School, Principal Liz Gruber wanted to teach all her students about Hispanic Heritage Month as well as celebrate it for the school’s Hispanic students. Morning announcements included facts and videos about Hispanic culture; Gruber also invited students to join her to teach some Spanish words to the rest of the school. “These students are typically the ones learning a new language (English), so it was neat to see them teaching their classmates a new language. I hope that our Hispanic students felt valued and important because we learned a little bit about their culture each day. Our goal is for everyone to practice the belief that ‘All Are Welcome at Wyandot’ each and every day.”

Over at Adena Elementary, teacher Helen Vassiliou helped to coordinate several projects to celebrate Hispanic heritage and empower the school’s Spanish speaking students. During Personalized Learning (PL) time, she and her sixth-grade students teamed with the art teacher to make a hallway display about Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter known for her many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. “The students learned about how her belief in ‘being uniquely you’ celebrates who they are in our school,” said Vassiliou. They created paper flowers to simulate the vibrant colors which adorned Frida's hair, symbolizing the textiles and colors the ancient Maya used. Students also displayed her paintings and memorable moments in her life and created captions for them. Vassiliou’s students said that "Making a display outside of our hallway made us feel special. We got to share what we learned for everyone to see as they walk into the cafeteria. We made that for our school and it was awesome to work together."

The same group of students felt it was important to create a slide show to teach their peers about Spanish-speaking countries, customs, and bilingual children's books. This slide show was shared with all Adena teachers to use during their PL time. The project allowed Vassiliou’s students to be the experts on their own home countries and share a little more about themselves with the school. 

At Liberty Junior, teacher Alisha Booker put together a daily trivia question that principal Eric Bauman read during morning announcements. Students then emailed him with their answers – and the first few winners received a prize. Booker is part of the Champions for Change program, an initiative of the Lakota Outreach, Diversity and Inclusion department. Every school has at least one Champion that meets regularly for practical on topics like cross-cultural communication, understanding poverty and barriers to the achievement gap.

Fellow Liberty Junior Champion, Ken Cowan summed it all up, “I think that it is important to get to know each other as people and one of the ways to do that is through experiencing each other’s cultures. We have a growing Hispanic population at Lakota and it is important that we get to know these students and families as individuals. This project is just a small thing that we can be doing as a school and as a district to be embracing our many different cultures. It should be what we are practicing everyday as individuals and as a district.”

Lakota West Spanish and ESL teacher Tricia Becker shared some of the many projects that took place in her classes. “Here at Lakota West, we have 150+ Hispanic students and we celebrated the rich heritage that these students contribute to our school,” said Becker. 

Recently, her ESL students created a multi-genre cultural presentation and shared many beautiful aspects of their heritage such as recipes, holidays and popular music. (The poem in the picture is by one of Becker’s students, Maria, where she expresses her pride and love for her Guatemalan heritage). Spanish 1 VLO students researched and created Padlet presentations about the Spanish culture, while Spanish 2 and 3 VLO students enjoyed learning song lyrics by listening to American-born Hispanic artist Marc Anthony's song, La Gozadera (which describes the shared passion and excitement that exists among people from all over the Spanish-speaking world).

Becker added, “We celebrate Hispanic heritage not only in September, but year-round as we embrace and welcome the beauty that the Hispanic culture brings to our school!”