Cultural Explorers Gain Educational Experiences

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Classroom lessons on language and world culture came alive for eight James Wilson Young Middle School students this February when they visited the beautiful Central American country of Costa Rica.

During the seven-day school-sanctioned trip, the eighth-graders, all of whom are currently studying Spanish at the middle school, had the chance to experience what it is like to live and work in the foreign country. From daily interactions with their host families to visits to natural landmarks such as Mount Arenal, Costa Rica’s only remaining active volcano, and the Baldi Hot Springs, the students had the chance to soak in a bit of history. Putting their lessons to good use, they also had opportunities to perfect their Spanish when visiting local marketplaces and an orphanage in Alajuela, and while painting rooms in a clinic that services more than 5,000 people. Additionally, to better experience the rich culture of the country, the students participated in a cooking class and learned traditional dances.  

“With today’s curriculum, we focus on students developing 21st century skills – skills that they will need to succeed in our ever-growing global society,” stated Spanish teacher and program coordinator Keith Scharfschwerdt, who explained that in the future students will need international skills in order to collaborate in business. “The most educationally beneficial aspect of the trip was perhaps the individual experiences that the students had when living with the host families. They were able to see how another culture works from the inside – something that they could not learn by just reading a textbook and something that many people never get to experience, or at least not until much later in life.”

Upon returning to school, the students, along with Mr. Scharfschwerdt and fellow Spanish teacher Vincent Rosa, who also chaperoned the trip with four parents, spoke with their classes about the trip. From the pictures they took, the students could see how beautiful the land is, and from their descriptions, they learned just how impactful the cultural experience was for the eighth-graders.