Friday, January 22, 2010

Why Should We Teach about Natural Disasters in a Spanish Class?

by Ann Abbott

The devastation and human suffering caused by the earthquake in Haiti has dominated the headlines these past ten days.

In addition to direct service and donations, how can we use our Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses to help?

First of all, I think it's important to just allow students to talk about it in class. What are their thoughts? Questions? Hopes?

Then, we can inform them about the country. Ask your students what they already know about Haiti. Are there Haitians in your community? You may consider adapting/translating all or some of the activities included in the New York Times' "Project Haiti: Holding a Teach-In."

For our Spanish CSL students in particular, I think it's worth it to contextualize this discussion in terms of community disaster preparedness. If a natural disaster (or other kind) took place in your community, how would language and culture play in the relief efforts? Paths of communication? Would they know what to do? Do they know how to tell a Spanish-speaker what to do? You might consider using parts of this lesson plan on "Desastres naturales." I especially like how the activities culminate in the creation of informational posters about "Un plan de acción en caso de desastre natural" that could actually be distributed in the community.

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