Students at Churchville-Chili’s Chestnut Ridge Elementary School traveled far beyond the usual celebration of Hispanic culture during this year’s Hispanic Heritage month (Sept.15-Oct. 16). In addition to the school’s month-long highlighting of Hispanic music, art, customs and cultural contributions, students were treated to a special trip of discovery to one of our South American neighbors – Peru – thanks to the personal experiences of the school’s English as a New Language (ENL) teacher Kari Shirk.
Shirk, who lived and taught school in Peru for ten years, welcomed students on September 15, dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing. Then during the month, she translated some of the daily announcements into both English and Spanish and worked with other teachers to collect daily fun facts about Hispanic people from around the world and their many cultures.
At the end of the month, Principal Kimberly Hale invited Shirk to lead a school-wide assembly that included stories, insights and pictures from her time in Peru. Shirk shared important facts about the country, its cities, its foods and holidays. She explained similarities and differences in how elementary students learn (Peruvian students learn several foreign languages, like Chinese) and the rules they follow, including wearing school uniforms. She showed pictures of fiestas and noted that, strangely, many of the beautiful cakes at parties are simply decorative and made of Styrofoam. Students had many questions, learned a few new words of Spanish, and left with a better understanding of how our differences make the world a richer and more interesting place.
“I wanted to share my own personal connections, along with experiences our students could relate to, to help make their understanding of diversity and heritage memorable and real for them,” Shirk said. “We plan to follow up with a chance for each of them to share a little about their own heritage with classmates. It will be exciting for them to see the cultural diversity each of them brings to our school community.”
Feature photo: Teacher Kari Shirk shared slides and stories about life in Peru.
This page: Students were fascinated by Shirk’s stories of Lima, everyday life and foods like Inca Kola, anticucho and cuy.