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Showing posts from December, 2009

Student Reflection

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by Katie Bednar

“The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (Dr. Seuss)

This quote, recognizable by most people in the world of education, is one of my favorites from Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! This quote serves as a motto for countless organizations and educators, especially those concerned with reading and literacy. At SOAR there is a focus placed on reading strategies and comprehension, and this is something that I did try and work on with Marisa* throughout the semester.

Almost every day after finishing her homework, Marisa and I headed to the Booker T. Washington library to get a few books to read. The school’s library has a great section of Spanish and bilingual books, and this is where we would head. On the first day, after heading back to the classroom and beginning to read, I was blown away by Marisa’s reading abilities. She succeeds at reading not because she knows all of the words, but because she sounds them out letter-by-letter, word-by-word. When she get…

Student Reflection

by Katie Bednar

¿Cómo se dice “protractor” en español?

It’s not every day that we need to know the Spanish translations for mathematical terms such as “add,” “subtract,” “obtuse,” and “acute.” They are not necessarily part of the average student’s vocabulary. However, these are words that the students that we tutor at Booker T. Washington interact with on a daily basis. In Spanish 232 we had a lesson that focused on working in the classroom and things we should know in order to work with students. There was a whole section that focused on how to use math vocabulary such as “add” and “multiply” with a Spanish-speaking student. On the first day that I had to work with Marisa* on a math assignment, I was extremely grateful for this lesson! The terminology is very basic, just something I have never needed to use.

One day at SOAR when Marisa was absent, I worked as a substitute in the 5th grade classroom. The students were learning about geometry in terms of angles and using protracto…

Student Reflection

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by Katie Bednar

Fully Immersed on the First Day

On the first day of tutoring with the SOAR program, I walked into Booker T. Washington with very mixed feelings. I was excited to meet the student I would be working with, but I was also nervous and a little anxious. I knew coming into the program that I would be using my Spanish and that many of the students in SOAR were just beginning to learn English. I guess you could say that I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea that, in some way, the success of my student would depend on my ability to communicate with them in Spanish. My confidence with the language was not really where it needed to be. Needless to say, I was somewhat apprehensive as I walked into the 1st grade classroom for the first time.

After introductions in the first ten minutes, I was paired up with my student. Marisa* is a 1st grade student from the bilingual classroom. I introduced myself to her, asked her what her name was, and where she wanted to sit. Nothing. She kind o…

Student Reflection

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by Danielle McBride
This photo is a picture of my old high school. Though the buildings may appear similar, the students I work with and I had quite different experiences in school.As I have stated in previous posts, I am from a town that has a significant Spanish-speaking population. This means that while I was in high school, a large number of my classmates were in ESL programs like the one I work in at Central High School. It was not until working in this classroom for an extended period of time that I came to the realization that the high school experience I had, along with the majority of other students, was and is drastically different than the high school experience of English Language Learners.

My high school experience, and the experience of most people I know, was that of doing the bare minimum to get by. I received straight A’s in high school, but the work was not difficult for me. Even the people who did not receive the best grades still only did what was necessary to g…

Champaign-Urbana: Immediate Volunteer Opportunity

I just received the e-mail below. If I were in town, I would go myself. But I can't. If you can help, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator directly.

"Earlier this week Champaign County Nursing Home admitted a 62 year old male for therapies and medical management post hospitalization. This gentleman’s primary language is Spanish. His dysphasia keeps him from communicating with our speech language therapists as we do not have anyone on staff who is fluent in Spanish. As the Volunteer Coordinator I am seeking a person who would be willing to volunteer 30 minutes during the day on week days to help us work with this person. A knowledge of Spanish as it might apply to medical situations would be helpful. If you know of anyone who might be able to assist us with this, please contact me.

"Sincerely,
Jim Hronek, Volunteer Coordinator
Champaign County Nursing Home
500 S. Art Bartell Rd.
Urbana, IL 61802
217-693-5016"

Student Reflection

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by Katie Bednar
“SOAR-ing” at Booker T. Washington

This semester, I am participating in the SOAR Program at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Champaign. The program has a very interesting and hopeful history, started in 2006 by the Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Illinois, the Latino Partnership, and Booker T. Washington. The program was developed out of a need that was expressed by members of the Shadowwood mobile home community in Champaign. After the cancellation of the afterschool program in their community, many of the Latino parents banded together to advocate for support for their children. Among their desires was homework help and afterschool enrichment for their children, along with parental education on helping their child succeed at home. In response to their concerns and community support, the SOAR (Student Opportunities for After-school Resources) Program was developed. And the rest is history (kind of).

The SOAR Program has b…

Student Reflection

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by Andy Kraus
These last few weeks have been full of teaching challenges. First, we’ve been teaching past tense verbs, and these are somewhat difficult for the students. Second, we have to find a way to deal with Thanksgiving and winter breaks.

There are so many irregular past tense verbs! It’s so easy to forget that since I already know English, but being a teacher has reminded me that there are exceptions to just about every grammar and pronunciation rule. For the most part the students are picking up on it, but they’re still at the state where they’re not familiar with the irregular forms and many of them are getting tripped up. But I’m confident that once we spend enough time on it they’ll be speaking like pros.

Our other problem is timing. Since all the teachers are university students we leave for Thanksgiving and winter break – leaving our students without new instruction for long periods of time. We already missed a week of class for Thanksgiving. I was sure to give my students h…

Student Reflection

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Danielle McBride

This is a photo of me looking over an old history book and reading up on the Vietnam War. Due to the fact I feel insecure about my knowledge sometimes, I occasionally come home from working at the school and research topics that I know I am going to have to work with again.


While working at Central High School, on numerous occasions I have found myself thinking, “How am I supposed to explain this in Spanish when I am not entirely sure how to explain it in English?” Working through situations like this, where I may simply not know how to articulate a concept or an idea in English because it seems so “second nature” to me or I may not know the concept or idea to begin with, I have learned numerous tactics to approach these situations and I feel as though I have improved myself throughout the process.

Sometimes, I am faced with a student that needs help with a subject that I have never taken and have no real knowledge of. In some instances, I was not even aware such subject…

Student Reflection

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by Leslie Barron

Never Too Old for Recess

With only one week left of volunteering it makes me think about how my relationship with the students has changed over the course of the semester. The first couple times I worked in the classroom I was nervous because I had difficulty understanding the teacher and the students. I was not used to how fast they talked and was constantly trying to focus on making sure I knew what was going on and what the teacher wanted me to do. The students sit on the rug in the class every morning to begin their lesson and I just remember how lost I was after the first day when they were all talking so fast it was hard for me to understand what they were saying. When interacting with the students, we just worked on the task at hand, usually reading or writing. Usually I would have to ask them to slow down or repeat what they had said. I caught on to some of their conversations with each other but did not get involved. I was always nervous but excited to go back …

Student Reflection

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by Leslie Barron
Becoming Bilingual

Before I started volunteering at Leal I had never been in a bilingual classroom. Over the course of the semester it has been interesting to see how English is incorporated into the students learning. All of the students in Ms. Davila’s classroom speak Spanish as their first language. While many of them understand some English, most cannot speak it well. After learning about different bilingual programs in class it was insightful to see first hand how the programs actually work. The teacher always uses Spanish when speaking with the students in the classroom. When I first started volunteering many of the students quickly realized that I am able to speak Spanish as well as English. For the students who only speak Spanish it did not really matter, but the students who are able to speak English had different reactions.

The second week of volunteering I was reading with a student. The kids usually have to read a short book and then do some sort of writing a…

Student Reflection

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by Andrew Kraus
This past Friday it was my turn to develop a lesson plan for the students. The theme of this week is “Money and the Workplace.” Fortunately, I’m in a Spanish 202 right now, so I’m well-versed in this area. In fact, I was able to copy a lot of the vocabulary right out of the class textbook and make a useful practice sheet for the students. We also went through dialogues about going to the bank, renting an apartment, and shopping for goods. I think the teachers learned a lot of useful Spanish vocabulary at the same time!

The other part of the lesson was grammar. We’re in the last week of learning the present tense, and we’re rounding it off by practicing the present progressive (I am going, they are eating, etc), which is very similar grammatically in Spanish and English, so for the most part the students picked it up pretty easily.

Next week we’ll be learning the past tense, which will be very challenging for many students, but also extremely rewarding once that light of u…

Student Reflection

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by Anthony Salis

Hoy entendí algo que resume mucho de lo que aprendí durante este tiempo trabajando en ECIRMAC. Hablan de un problema que tiene una familia con bebé que se nació recientemente. En el certificado de nacimiento, los enfermos escribieron "Grace" para el nombre de la hija. Los padres desean que se llame "La Grâce". Esto es un problema que ocurre con frecuencia con inmigrantes. Los enfermeros no respetan los formas de nombrar en otras culturas del mundo. Muchas veces usan letras que no existen en inglís o no usan laforma de nombre primero y segundo con apellido familiar.

Es difícil para inmigrantes adaptarse a la cultura americana. Posiblemente es más fácil que en otros países, pero todavía hay desafíos. La lengua es una de las barreras más prevalecientes, especialmente en esta parte del país. Muchas veces la única razón que entran en estos problemas legales es que alguien tiene mala explicación o no tenían toda la información. Como estos padres: el enferm…

Student Reflection

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by Leslie Barron Volunteering Means No Child is Left Behind

After a couple weeks volunteering in the 1st grade classroom at Leal Elementary I started to realize how difficult it is to teach because the students all have such different ability levels. The first couple times I went to volunteer I was really focused on my Spanish and being able to communicate with the kids. I was focusing so much on my Spanish that I was not observant of the different levels and learning styles of the many different students. After I became more comfortable and conversational with the students I began to realize the different ways they learn, how well they are able to learn the material, and what the teacher does as well as what I can do to enhance their learning potential. I am not an education major and have never thought about going into teaching so it has been really interesting to see the different methods employed by the teacher to try and help all the students.
The first time I noticed the extreme v…

Student Reflection

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by Anthony Salis

Algunos días no estoy seguro por qué trabajo cada semana. La mayoría del trabajo es contestar el teléfono. Al contestar el teléfono le pido qué necesita y la mayoría sabe con cual de las profesionales quiere hablar. Si está en la oficina, le doy el teléfono y regreso a lo que hacía antes. Si no está en la oficina, necesito ver lo que puedo hacer para él. Usualmente es nada porque no sé los formas legales ni otros contactos profesiones para tomar el paso próximo con el problema. Lo que puedo hacer es tomar un mensaje, y ¡puede ser un desafío! Cuando habla con muchas personas diferentes por teléfono, encuentra a personas que son difíciles para entender. Usualmente es la barrera de lengua, especialmente con las personas que hablan el chino o el vietnamita y no mucho inglés. Las conversaciones pueden ser lentas pero si puedo obtener un nombre y un número, estoy contento.

Aunque, es los hispanohablantes para que estoy más preparado. Pero no significa que las conversaciones s…

Student Reflection

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by Danielle McBride

This photo is of the anatomy book that I sometimes have to use to help the students with their work.

For Spanish and the Community, I am working at Champaign Central High School as a tutor in the ESL classroom. Due to the fact that there was confusion with my background clearance, I go for several consecutive hours, rather than two, each visit. Typically, I attend Wednesdays from 10 am to the end of the school day, 3:15 pm. I also attend whenever I have a Friday free in my schedule. Overall, I usually average about ten hours a week in the school. The advantage to this is that I have longer contact with the students, thus allowing me to forge more of a relationship with them.

While at the school, my job is to help the students with any class work, homework, quizzes, and/or exams that they may need assistance with or help understanding. The class subjects may vary from math to history to science; students come in at all times of the day when they need help. The help I o…

Student Reflection

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by Anthony Solis

Es interesante que la puerta esté cerrada cada vez que voy a ECIRMAC. La iglesia no tiene actividades durante los martes por la mañana y el edificio es muy tranquilo si quieres explorar. Pero no debes. La puerta está cerrada por razón; el acceso es limitado a los que necesitan usarlo. Cada semana necesito tocar el timbre para ganar acceso para trabajar. Para mí es un paso importante para tomar toda la experiencia. Las oportunidades se presentan pero no abren todas las puertas. Es importante que tomes el paso siguiente para asegurarlas.

Y ¡qué oportunidad es! Puedo encontrar a muchas personas, y todas tienen sus propias historias especiales. Para considerar a la diversidad de personas que vienen, el centro de refugiados tiene empleos que pueden hablar muchos lenguas útiles. Hay una para el español, una para el chino, una para el vietnamita, y una puede hablar el vietnamita, el francés, y poco el español. Tuve llamada de una abogada que buscaba un intérprete para Hindi. S…

Student Reflection

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by Leslie Barron

La Escuela Leal

This semester I decided to take Span 232 so I could learn a little more about the community surrounding U of I. After two years of living in Champaign I realized I do not know much about the community outside of the campus. I thought this class, Spanish in the community, would be the perfect opportunity to get involved in the community and learn a little more about the people who live here. Although we were given a variety of locations where we could volunteer, I knew I wanted to work in an elementary school this semester. I love being around little kids and knew this would be a great opportunity.

Since day one volunteering at Leal Elementary School in Urbana, Illinois I have had the most amazing experiences. Leal has students in kindergarten through sixth grade, but I got assigned to volunteer in a 1st grade bilingual classroom. Most of the students only speak Spanish, some understand a little bit of English, and only a few of them speak fluent Eng…

Student Reflection

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by Leslie Barron

My name is Leslie Barron. I’m a junior pursuing a double major in political science and Spanish. After undergrad I hope to attend law school. My family recently relocated from the Chicago suburbs to Boston so I am beginning to look at law schools on the east coast. Spanish has always been of interest to me, at least since I started taking Spanish classes in 7th grade. Ultimately, I think it would be awesome to be able to use my Spanish in my legal career.

Senior year of high school I had the opportunity to go on a two week study abroad program to Cuernavaca, Mexico and live with a host family. This experience really opened my eyes in a number of ways, but most importantly made me realize how much I enjoy the Spanish language. For this reason I decided to double major in Spanish at the U of I with the hopes of someday becoming fluent. I felt as if I learned so much more in two weeks in Cuernavaca than I ever could have learned in a classroom. Next semester I am planning …

Student Reflection

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by Danielle McBride

Photos: The first picture is of myself (farthest right) and two friends in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay looking out unto the Río de la Plata in mid-November 2008. The second picture is of myself looking out through the forest onto Las Cataratas del Iguazú in early December 2008.

I’m Danielle McBride and I am a senior in International Studies with a focus on Latin America and human rights.

My experiences with Spanish have been impacting, and sometime life changing. I am from a small town in northern Illinois. Though we are roughly 9500 people, we have a rather significant Spanish-speaking population; something all the other towns around us lack, making us a bit different than the average small town in Illinois. Growing up, I always had friends and classmates that had to learn English as their second language, but I knew nothing of other languages. As I became older, I became more intrigued by the diversity in my town, more specifically the Latino culture. In high sc…

Student Reflection

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by Katie Bednar

I am currently a junior studying Spanish and Education. I am working toward a certification in the teaching of Spanish for grades kindergarten through high school. My passion has always been in the field of education, and as I went through high school, my interest and affinity for the Spanish language developed. It only seemed natural to pair the two. For this reason, I am very excited to be working in the Champaign school district as a part of this project.

This will be my first semester working in the community via Spanish & Illinois, but over the course of the past two years I have worked in the Champaign schools tutoring and working with Spanish-speaking students. I discovered my interest in bilingual education through time spent observing and working in a bilingual kindergarten classroom. Much of my exposure to Spanish has been in a classroom setting, whether it is as the student or the mentor. My knowledge and comfort with the language are constantly improving.

Student Reflection

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by Anthony Salis

El primer día que fui a la agencia, tenía un poco de miedo porque no estaba seguro de lo que iba a hacer. Tampoco nunca había estado en la parte de Urbana pero las direcciones eran bastante básicas--a la esquina de Green y Birch. Supe que había encontrado la puerta correcta cuando vi una nota que dijo que no había nadie en la oficina por la primera hora que estaría. Fantástico. No sé lo que hago y no hay nadie para enseñarme.

Pensaba que la primera hora no debía valer para nada, pero en la segunda hice doble el trabajo. Guadalupe regresó a la oficina y trajo dos padres que necesitaban ayuda en llenar una aplicación para su hija. ¡Qué presión! No hablaron inglés para nada y tenía que traducirla para que podían que debían marcar. Era muy difícil pensar en palabras que describan las ideas técnicas especialmente las enfermedades. ¡Había muchas que no conocía en inglés!

La oficina estaba muy ocupada ese día. Los teléfonos sonaban mucho y había seis o siete personas en total q…

Student Reflection

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by Andrew Kraus

I’ve been spending about four days a week assisting as an ESL tutor. It has been a challenge to give up that much of my time, but it is definitely worth it. I’m spending a large part of my time teaching an individual student, Antonio, and I’m also helping create lesson plans for the whole class.

Antonio is a very eager student. He speaks and understands English very well, and still impresses me with how quickly he learns. His writing and reading skills are somewhat underdeveloped, though, so we’re going to be spending more time on those. I assigned him a story and a 100 word paper as an assignment before our next meeting.

Antonio is also looking for employment right now, so I’ve made it my personal mission to help him get a job. I helped him craft a cover letter, and soon we’ll be discussing how to make resumes. I’m happy that Antonio is doing so well with English, and if I can help him get a job that would be icing on the cake.

I’m in charge of designing one of the lesson…

Student Spotlight: Melissa Dilber

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by Ann Abbott
I love seeing the success stories of my former students, and I love sharing them here so that current Spanish students can be inspired by their examples--opportunities they took advantage of while still students and paths they have followed in their professional lives.
Melissa Dilber worked on a senior thesis with me and a teammate, and during that process I saw that she was a risk-taker--in terms of language learning and work experiences. She learned French and Spanish by jumping in feet first; she spent an entire year abroad in France and worked in the Dominican Republic a few summers in service projects and for private companies. I could see that she put herself out there and grabbed hold of challenges--or created opportunities for herself!
Students, if you're interested in a career in public health and in the non-profit sector, Melissa is a great role-model for you. And even if you're planning on working in an entirely different field, take a look at the importa…

Do Our Students Possess Intercultural Competence?

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by Ann Abbott
In a previous post I asked if our students can recognize culture when it doesn't display itself wrapped in a flag and carrying baskets of local handicrafts.
But in some ways, the more important question is: Can our students recognize their own cultural practices and viewpoints?
It's easy to think that what we do is just "natural." If other people do it another way, that's "weird." (If I had a dime for every time an American says "Ick!" when in another country they see fish served whole, I'd be rich. And that's just one particularly obvious example of "un-natural natural.")
Darla K. Deardorff states this very clearly: "Cultural self-awareness could arguably be considered the essence of cross-cultural knowledge in that it is crucial for individuals to be aware of the way in which they view the world. Often this self-awareness is difficult to gain without moving beyond one's own culture, whether through educ…

Hazard! Protect All Involved in Community Service Learning

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by Ann Abbott

What's your worst fear about teaching a Spanish community service learning (CSL) course?

Your students could behave unprofessionally and ruin the community partnership you worked so hard to build.

Your students' Spanish could be inadequate to the task, making mistakes that have real negative impacts.

Someone's safety could be compromised as they travel to and from the community partner's location.

One of your students could be a peeping Tom?

Maybe it's an urban legend, but I did hear that this actually happened at one university.

Obviously, it's impossible to avoid every risk that CSL involves. It wouldn't be as effective if it didn't push students in new directions. But there are some things that we can definitely do to help minimize risks. Follow your university's insurance, safety and documentation policies, and consider these options as well:

Before your course beginsPrepare contracts for your students to sign. Download Comunidades' In…

4 Myths about Spanish Community Service Learning

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by Ann Abbott
It would be nice if starting a Spanish community service learning (CSL) course or program happened easily. It would be even nicer if CSL magically made all our students learn more--and remember everything they learned! While I truly believe that CSL is a very effective pedagogy when done well, it is not easy, nor is it a magic bullet.
Here are some myths about CSL. If you're considering starting a CSL course or program, take them to heart. If you're already doing CSL, well, you already know...

Myth 1. My campus' CSL Center will handle everything for me.
A centralized CSL office is a wonderful thing! I wish that the University of Illinois had one. But they don't integrate the CSL work into your curriculum; you have to do that. They don't know how to match up the community partner's needs to your students' Spanish proficiency level; that's up to you. So while they are a great start and save you a lot of work, you still have to make the experien…

Global Engagement Summer Institute

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by Ann Abbott

I just received the following e-mail and wanted to pass alongthe information about Northwestern's Global Engagement Summer Institute. UIUC students may apply. I don't know if it is open to other university students as well.

"Dear select Illinois faculty, staff, and student leaders:

"The Northwestern University Center for Global Engagement is excited to announce that applications are now available for the Global Engagement Summer Institute, a unique summer program in Bolivia, Nicaragua, India, and Uganda. The program involves a 7-day preparatory institute in Chicago, followed by an 8-week, team-based internship at a host nonprofit.

"This is a great opportunity that pairs rigorous academic training with hands-on international community development experience. Do you think this might interest your students?

"Please feel free to forward the following message (below) to appropriate listservs and students and feel free to contact me with any questions.…

Amazon's Author Central

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by Ann Abbott Just a quick note to invite you to visit my page on Amazon's Author Central. I'd be happy if you left a comment on the blog post and discussion question. Or maybe you'd like to add a new discussion topic. It's neat to have another space in which to interact with people who are using or are curious about Spanish community service learning.

Champaign-Urbana: Eat at Blues BBQ and Benefit the Refugee Center

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by Ann Abbott

One of the Refugee Center's newest Board members is Sheena Shukla, a former "Spanish in the Community" student and current Masters student in the School of Social Work. She has organized the following fund-raiser on Wednesday, December 9 for the Refugee Center.

I have a broken foot, so I'll be calling for deliver that day. I hope you can drop by Blues or have it delivered, too.

Here is Sheena's message with details:

"Our fundraiser at Blues [1103 W Oregon St #C, Urbana, IL 61801-3783, (217) 239-9555]will be on December 9th for the entire time Blues is opened (11-9pm).

"The Refugee Center will receive 10% of everything sold for that day. On-campus delivery only costs one dollar, so this fundraiser can be accessible to everyone on campus."

What Does Culture Look Like?

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by Ann Abbott
When our students travel abroad, they visit museums, rent movies, go to clubs, pass by monuments, travel to natural wonders (beaches, volcanoes, mountains, etc.), walk through plazas, buy artesenias for souveniers, take classes about local history, read literary works by native authors, live with a family, eat meals with them, and watch tv in their living room. They come back with a good--if not perfect--feel for the country's culture.
Our Spanish textbooks are loaded with bright pictures of faces with ethnic features, traditional clothing, modern night-life, happy youth hanging out, portraits of artists and authors, and photos of the same monuments and natural wonders our students would see if they could go abroad.
So when we tell our Spanish community service learning (CSL) students that they should be learning Spanish and about Hispanic cultures while working in the community (do we tell them that?), how will they know when they have encountered "culture?"