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20 03, 2014

Oaxaca, Days 3-4

By | March 20th, 2014|Experiential Learning, Global Learning|6 Comments

Lucas said today that our first day had been really long, and now everything is going really fast.  Agreed! It’s too fast for this blogger to keep up with it, but on the other hand, we do so much every day, that Sunday seems light years away.
Chocolate1Mexico is the home of chocolate, but as Lucero explained Tuesday evening, Mexicans use chocolate primarily for drinking.  It was the Europeans who invented bonbons.  For celebrations like Dia de las Muertes or birthdays, Oaxacan families go to a mill to purchase freshly ground chocolate, which they take home to make their family’s special chocolate.  We visited a mill to see how the chocolate is ground with cinnamon and nuts and to taste a few samples. Then, with chocolate in hand, we returned to ICO to make our own.  Our two chocolate-averse students had a great conversation with Señora Christina while the rest of us literally got our hands dirty.

 

 

Chocolate3        Chocolate4Chocolate 6

IMG_0636Following classes on Wednesday, we visited the gorgeous display of pre-Colombian art at the Rufino Tomayo museum and then the Soledad Church where we came upon the curious juxtaposed celebrations of Saint Joseph’s Day and the inauguration of a new garbage truck for the city.  This is a city of surprises.   The resulting traffic jam meant a shortened lunch and siesta before taking off for the soccer field and, as the temperature soared into the low 90′s, a hot game of soccer with our intercambio friends. soccer

The heat and the exertion could mean only one thing:  ice cream!  We headed back to the Zocalo to enjoy a relaxing break in the cool of enormous old trees.  Sitting in the cafes, we attract many peddlers, and our Ancona students do a tremendous job of remembering Señora Christina’s admonition to see the humanity in everyone. From the very young to the very old, indigenous people from the pueblos spend their days in the zocalo selling crafts and trying to earn a living.  It can be tempting to feel annoyed by the constant solicitations, but treating everyone with respect is essential.  We’re proud that our students have learned this lesson well.  
Caleb
IMG_0746Saab
Fortified by our ice creams, we headed back to ICO, doing a little shopping (and bargaining) along the way.
TiendaWigs

19 03, 2014

Oaxaca, Days 2-3

By | March 19th, 2014|Experiential Learning, Global Learning|4 Comments

Oaxaca = color.  Coquito and primavera blossoms.

Coquito and primavera blossoms.

Our days in Oaxaca have been so rich and full that it’s hard to believe there have only been two of them.  I looked around on a short bus ride we took this afternoon, and everyone was so happy, I actually felt a little lump in my throat.  Mexico es fabuloso, Caleb told Señora Christina.  And this morning:  It’s all going by too fast.

Our morning check-ins confirm that everyone is doing well.  Students are appreciating the home-cooked meals they’re having in their families; Dallas and Julian are especially excited, because their familia owns a restaurant!  One student pointed out that all of the food is fresh; nothing is processed.  And while breakfasts are different from what we’re used to at home, the beans, tortillas, eggs, cheese and fresh fruit – especially mangoes – are much appreciated.  Because lunches are late at around 2:00, the hearty breakfasts really make a difference.

Ancona students are acute observers.  Several boys noticed how much lower prices are in Mexico and wondered how do the shopkeepers make a profit? Or perhaps we should be asking why are prices so much higher at home?  Caleb was surprised that a man could get on a bus, sing and people would give him money – something he couldn’t imagine happening in the U.S.  And Aiesha, like many other students we’ve taken to Mexico, commented on how friendly people are.

Sarah gets a photography lesson en español.

Sarah gets a photography lesson en español.

Our days begin with Spanish classes at ICO; students are grouped according to their degree of Spanish

Una classe de español

Una classe de español

proficiency.  We’re not the only students at the Instituto; there are students from the U.S., Canada, Germany, Japan and New Zealand. Nemo met one of the Maori high school students who are here for six months – he speaks English, Spanish, French and Japanese in addition to Maori.  Really makes you think about our American educational system’s limited attention to world languages.  The director of their school, himself part-Maori, explained to Señora Christina and I that he chose Spanish as a world language in his school, because it is not a language associated with a race; it is a language spoken by people of many races and nationalities all over the world.  We teach the same idea at Ancona.  Interesante, ¿no?

Sharing conversation with Oaxacan students.

Sharing conversation with Oaxacan students.

Everyone returns to his/her familia for the main meal of the day in the afternoon and then a siesta.  At 4:00, we return to ICO for intercambio, which is a wonderful opportunity for Ancona students to get to know Oaxacan students who are learning English.  They talk about whatever they like, helping each other with the two languages.

After intercambio, it’s time for cultural activities.  Monday we had a salsa lesson outside in the spacious courtyard.  ICO is in the large, gracious hacienda-style home of Lucero’s grandmother — not quite Downton Abbey, but still reminiscent of a very different era.    There were a few reluctant dancers, but everyone was a good sport. It seemed to be great fun for most and maybe a little awkward for some. I am truly impressed with this group’s willingness to cooperate and try even when they might not be totally comfortable.  They are confident risk-takers!

Instituto Cultural de Oaxaca

Instituto Cultural de Oaxaca

Following the Tuesday morning classes, students toured the Cultural Museum of Oaxaca, but I can’t tell you anything about it, because Gilad and I were on a money-changing odyssey, waiting in line in four banks and two currency exchanges until we were finally able to change everyone’s dollars into pesos at a reasonable rate.  Because of the very long, slow immigration line in Mexico City, we didn’t have time exchange in the airport, and dealing with currency limits and getting enough small bills to distribute back to the students was no small feat!  Gilad was in desperate need of a gelato when our ordeal was done. Fortunately, in this beautiful city of outdoor living, that was easily accomplished.

p.s. Parents, we read your comments on the first post to the students, and they loved them.  Keep them coming!

In the zocalo.

In the zocalo.

Only in Oaxaca.

Only in Oaxaca.

19 03, 2014

Oaxaca, Day 1

By | March 19th, 2014|Experiential Learning, Global Learning|0 Comments

We take modern air travel for granted, but it still seems like a miracle  to leave Chicago in a late night snow storm and arrive a mere eight hours later in  tropical Oaxaca, Mexico.   Our 22 intrepid Ancona 8th graders flew through the night and then waited a sleepy 90 minutes in the Immigration line as dawn broke over Mexico City.

Boarding the flight for Oaxaca.
Boarding the flight for Oaxaca.

After the short second flight to Oaxaca, they tumbled out into the bright morning sunshine and walked confidently off with the Oaxacan parents who met us at the airport.  Our adventure had begun.

After settling in at their new homes, getting some much needed sleep and having their first meals with their families, the students gathered at a cafe on Oaxaca’s famous zocalo. It was time to become acquainted with the city that will be our home for a week.  Our students were gradually making the switch to Espanol.  Sarah reported that she had spoken Spanish accidentally, and even in the airport, Julian said it was fun to try to order food in Spanish.

At Cafe La Primavera
At Cafe La Primavera

Oaxaca is a riot of color, filled with myriad new sights, sounds, smells and tastes.  We learned from Lucero, the owner of Instituto Cultural de Oaxaca, that Oaxaca is a completely colonial city, founded by the Spanish, and filled with beautiful colonial architecture.

Cathedral on the Zocalo
Cathedral on the Zocalo

Lucero took us to the great Cathedral on the zocalo and then for a long, slow walk on the Alcala, Oaxaca’s pedestrian mall.  We paid a visit to the Santo Domingo Church where we’re going to return later this week to tour their botanical gardens.  We gradually made our way to El Llana, a wonderful park several blocks long with fountains and plazas where, along with many Oaxacan families out for a Sunday afternoon, we watched children drive small motorized cars, petted puppies and just enjoyed being out in the beautiful weather with each other.  Senora Christina remarked that with no money to spend (we hadn’t been to an exchange), everyone was able to be truly present instead of thinking about what to purchase. (Maybe we should never change money too quickly?)  And we saw nary a cell phone as we settled into being in Oaxaca.

As if to prove the point, Olive asked if she could buy an elote with her change from an airport snack.  For the uninitiated, which included yours truly, elote is roasted sweet corn sprinkled with lime juice, spread with mayonnaise and dipped in parmesan cheese.  As Lucero walked us to her favorite elote stand, Senora Christina spontaneously decided on elotes for all.  It was a fitting cultural cherry on the top of quite an amazing day.  Elotes in hand, we trooped to ICO, the Instituto Cultural de Oaxaca, and as the kids went off for evening with their madres y padres, a stunning, deep orange full moon rose in the East .

Trying out a new treat.
Trying out a new treat.
Dona Angelina's Elotes
Dona Angelina’s Elotes
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17 03, 2014

Maya’s Argument

By | March 17th, 2014|Families, Learning to Write, Parenting|0 Comments

Writers Celebrations punctuate our school year giving festive endings to the studies of particular genres in our Writers Workshops. In a Writers Celebration, groups of students gather together with their parents to share completed and polished works after weeks of drafts, critiques and revisions. Parents and kids share comments, questions and accolades for each young writer.IMG_0120

Our 3rd/4th graders recently celebrated a challenging month-long workshop on personal essays. Each student writer chose an idea s/he cared about and used three pieces of evidence to construct a logical argument for the reader. Sustaining a single idea, supporting it through several paragraphs and completing the essay as a unified whole is truly challenging work for eight and nine-year-olds!

There was a very poignant moment when Maya, having explained why vacations are both fun and educational, read her third reason.Maya Reading

It is good for you, because vacation is about getting my family back together and spending time together. On the Disney cruise line, it got my family back together for 5 days, and then we stayed at a hotel in Orlando. Jacob and Dad went golfing; we (Mom and I) relaxed and watched TV and read books together. We spent a lot of time in the pool. When we are at home it is not like vacation, because we have to go to school and work and spend a lot of time apart. So vacation is important for family.

A great writer speaks to a timeless truth and makes an emotional connection to her audience. When it was time for feedback, more than one parent confessed to being a little teary. I was personally moved by the sweet earnest quality of Maya’s essay.

I thought of this moment the other day when I read a summary of psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair’s address to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) conference, taking place at just about the same time as our Writers Celebration. Steiner Adair is a therapist and instructor at the Harvard Medical School who researches the effects of technology on our kids and our relationships.

Are we living in a time in which we are more connected than ever and, paradoxically, more isolated? she asked.

According to Bridget Janicki, who blogged from the conference, Steiner-Adair interviewed kids, parents, school leaders, young adults and even preschoolers around the country. She was blown away by this finding:
Children at every single age group use the same words to describe being in a family — and they all speak to feeling alone. It’s sad, because they cannot get their parents’ attention. They feel frustrated that at a moment when they need a connection, their parents’ eyes are in the screen.

And then, a couple of days ago, I saw this headline from Time.com: Don’t Text While Parenting — It Will Make You Cranky. The story described a study from Boston Medical Center showing that parents absorbed in their devices throughout an entire meal had increasingly negative interactions with their children. Since children learn their primary social skills from interacting with their parents, the researchers wondered what the long-term effects of such digital absorption on children’s social development might be.

In our fast-paced and digital world, Maya reminds us that children need and desire deep connection to parents and family. And even amidst all the attractions and distractions of Disney World, the most delicious and memorable moments might just be spent hanging out with your parents.