Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Results of Community Based Team Projects

Students in my SPAN 232 course, "Spanish & Entrepreneurship: Languages, Cultures & Communities," have to do a team project in addition to their 28 hours of community service learning work. These are the results of one of the teams from Spring 2014. The intent is to have them go through the entrepreneurial process on a small scale, create something of true value, and develop their teamwork skills. --Ann Abbott


The team project that we chose to do was to plan, promote, and carry out a Spanish-language booth at a community literary event called Read Across America at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana, Illinois. We had three group members who divided the work amongst themselves early in the semester to carry out the project in the most efficient manner possible. The event allowed us to provide a service to the people of Champaign-Urbana. Our work in the community throughout this semester with Spanish 332 has shown us the number of Spanish speaking individuals in our community.Before the event, we worked to promote our booth by creating a one page flyer that presented our booth in a fun, yet informative way. We then reached out to our community partners, giving out flyers to those we worked with in the schools we volunteer at, as well as other SPAN 332 students and our professor to try and get our flyer out in the community.Regretfully, this part could have been executed earlier, however, to reach a larger amount of people instead of all happening the week of the event. In addition to the promotion, we went out in the community to secure spanish and english books that related to our booth theme by borrowing books from the Center for Children’s Books at the University of Illinois and the Champaign Public Library

Read Across America allowed us to set up a bilingual (Spanish and English) booth so that children and their parents in our community could spend time reading books and doing activities in English and Spanish. We provided books and supplies so that children and their families were able to read and do activities in the language of their choice. The activities were chosen to account for differences in age. Thus, we created spanish word searches, coloring pages with Spanish captions underneath, and a wide array of multicolored storytelling material. The story telling material incorporated farm animals as well as different habitats and things they could interact with such as a feeding station and car, all with Spanish and English captions underneath. We encouraged older kids to invent stories about the animals and to tell them to us in Spanish. When not working on activities with children, we were reading to thein Spanish which was a good means of practice for all of us.

We were able to see families spending time together and learning together. There were families who spoke no Spanish at all who were interested in having our group read them books in Spanish. In other cases, Spanish-speaking families were able to enjoy their favorite children’s books together. Our booth was very popular at the event and we accredit it to the great service that we provided the community.

So what? 

We were aware of the large number of Spanish speakers in the community and that an event where they could share their language with their children would be very popular and needed. Many immigrants come to the country with young children who end up being bilingual or end up losing very much language ability from the country of their birth or their parents’ birth. Often, reading and speaking in another language can be embarrassing or not preferred by that child and so an event like this can really help enforce the idea that speaking Spanish is a great asset to have and encourages them to participate. Additionally, we felt that showing non-Spanish speakers in the community the importance of bilingualism would help them to be more understanding of the Spanish speaking community.

At the Read Across America event, we offered Spanish-speaking, monolingual children a way to actively participate in the event, as well as gave children in bilingual educational programs an opportunity to practice their Spanish. The Champaign-Urbana area has a large Spanish-speaking population and, while the children in monolingual homes may be learning English at school, some children only knew Spanish. Our booth made those children feel more comfortable and willing to participate in the activities. Many of the parents we spoke to also told us that their children were in a special bilingual program where half of their children’s classes were in English and the other half were in Spanish. They were very appreciative that our booth had books and activities in both Spanish and English so that their children could get more practice with Spanish.

Now what?

At the event, we also made the Champaign-Urbana community more aware of our Spanish 332 Business and Entrepreneurship class at the University of Illinois. Many parents asked what organization we were with and this gave us the chance to explain the importance and value of our class. Throughout the event we really utilized our interpersonal communication and leadership skills to interact with both the parents and children. The ability to effectively communicate and demonstrate leadership are skills that the three of us will need in our futures. Our experience with planning and organizing a booth is also one that the three of us can benefit from as wellHopefully this event encourages many more like it to take place. The growing Spanish-speaking community in the Champaign-Urbana area as well as the rest of the United States is an indication of the immense need for literacy among Spanish speakers to encourage participation among young students as well as promote advanced written and spoken language fluency as they grow older. In the future, we hope that more events like this can take place to promote awareness and bring up the discussion of Spanish speaker culture and identity to the rest of the United States.

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