On Friday, students at Rural Hall Elementary School kicked off their festival celebrating Hispanic cultures by talking via Skype with someone in Brazil. For 10 years, Benny Sprouse was a missionary in Brazil. He still has friends there and set it up so that students could talk to one of them.
When Bryant, the speech therapist who was serving as mistress of ceremonies for the festival asked students to say “thank you,” they said “THANK YOU!” with enough enthusiasm to have powered a small town for a day if their response had been hooked up to an electric generator.
What followed in the Rural Hall gym/auditorium was a high energy festival that included groups of students performing Hispanic dances that they had learned with physical education teacher Ashley Chunn and singing Hispanic songs that that had learned in their classes with music teacher Erin Farmer.
Some of the younger children had studied illustrated books with a Hispanic theme. In Amy Allen’s kindergarten class, they read and illustrated Poncho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale. In Robin Chunn’s kindergarten class, they read and illustrated The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred. The Cazuela (rice pudding) book included Spanish words, and Chunn said she had enjoyed learning new words as they read the book.
Another class had made artistic letters of the alphabet in a style inspired by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Another had made flags. During the festival, the students who had made art paraded across the stage to show everyone else in the school their pictures.
At one point, Sprouse got up on stage at helped students learn to sing the Portuguese version of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Given that the song includes opportunities to clap and stomp your feet, it was no surprise that the students thought that was big fun.
The festival included lots of extras including some students wearing Hispanic clothing. In the case of students such as Kennedy Wells and Michael Bailey, they had made their costumes starting with paper bags and adding decorative touches with construction paper.
Every student in the school had participated in the festival in one way or another, and on display in the old gym was art, tri-fold posters showing research that students had done into different Hispanic countries and passports that students had created. ESL teacher Yamile McBride and her teacher assistant Criseida Blancas organized the festival.