We know that language learning takes a stronger hold in a student’s mind when it comes to life. Recently, our 8th graders had the opportunity to connect their Spanish language learning with real world events. Because students were discussing current events and the migrant caravan of families traveling to the U.S. from countries such as El Salvador and Honduras, we sought to find a way for our students to make an impact with regard to this issue and practice their Spanish language skills.
We were fortunate to connect with the Centro Legal de la Raza, an organization that focuses on “protecting and advancing the rights of immigrant, low-income, and Latino communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy.” When we learned that representatives from Centro Legal de la Raza would be traveling to Tijuana, Mexico to provide legal advice to those in the caravan, we decided this would be a great opportunity for our students to reach out to families and welcome them to our country.
We asked our students to write letters in Spanish to children of all ages arriving in Tijuana, and through these letters they shared a little bit about their family, what they like and enjoy doing, and about their school, which allowed them to use what they have learned in the past years in a real-world context. They also wrote welcoming notes such as “Come be my neighbor,” “You’re welcome here,” “My country has space and rights for you,” and “What you’re doing is incredibly hard and brave.” They included a picture of their class in the note and decorated the envelopes as well. Students are aware that they won’t get responses, and that this act is solely for the benefit of others. Still, this ability to act gave them hope and a sense of agency.
To deepen their understanding of issues around immigration, students also watched the documentary The Other Side of Immigration by Roy Germano. In the film, rural farmers explain how their incomes plummeted after the 1994 NAFTA agreement allowed agricultural companies in the U.S. and Canada to sell products in Mexico, at prices that the local farmers couldn’t compete with. This resulted in a wave of migration, and many families, and even entire towns, became dependent on the labor of family members in the U.S.
Today we’re happy to report that the student letters are on their way to the border and will be hand delivered by members of Centro Legal de la Raza this week. Students are hopeful that their warm wishes will provide some comfort to children undergoing such a huge change. We’re proud of our students for taking action, caring for others, and bringing their Spanish learning to life in a very meaningful way.
The middle school World Language Department