By Jet Burham | [email protected]
Mexican Independence Day is a big deal in Mexico so it is a big deal at Mountain Point Elementary, which has a Spanish Dual Language Immersion program.
Spanish DLI teachers Angie Garrido and Irene Garza, who are both from Mexico, are excited to teach their students more about their country’s language and culture as they celebrate the holiday together on Sept. 16.
“We have this vision for this holiday that every year we are going to have the opportunity to explore a new culinary tradition from the country,” Garza said.
The first graders will learn about tostadas and practice making tortillas by patting and flattening the dough with their hands.
“It is real tortilla dough but it is like play-doh for them,” Garrido said.
The second graders will learn about tamales, another traditional Mexican food.
Last year, parent volunteers helped make tostadas for the first graders’ celebration. This year, parents will be invited to a tamale-making demonstration so they can make authentic tamales at home for their children to taste. Students and their families will also learn to play the popular Mexican game Lotería, which is similar to Bingo.
Learning about Spanish-speaking countries’ holidays, culture and traditions is part of Utah’s DLI program model, which uses a complete approach to help students gain both language and cultural fluency.
“We are told to really submerge the students in our culture,” Garza said. “It’s the Spanish language, yes, but culture needs to be involved, because it’s the only way that the student will be fully bilingual by the end of the program.”
DLI students will also celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, on Nov. 1. They will expand their vocabulary while learning about the symbols of the holiday with activities and crafts. The first graders will decorate sugar skulls and the second graders will explore the legends of mythical spirit animals called alebrijes.
For the school’s winter program last year, DLI students learned a festive Peruvian Christmas song. However, because both Garrido and Garza are from Mexico, they have focused much of the cultural experiences during the first, and now the second year of the program, on their own country.
However, because they come from different parts of Mexico—one is from the South and the other is from the North—they can expose their students to the variations in traditions, language and pronunciations within their country.
In preparation for the Cultural Night the PTA has planned for January, the two teachers considered teaching their students a dance from another country but decided there was enough variety in Mexican dancing.
“Mexican folklore dances are so different—all the costumes are different and the steps are so different,” said Garrido, who performs with a Mexican dance group.
As the DLI program grows and an additional teacher joins the staff each year, there will be more opportunities to expand the cultural experiences to other Spanish-speaking countries.
“We don’t know which teacher is going to be next year—if they’re from Peru, or Ecuador or from Spain,” Garza said. “We really just don’t know and that’s the beauty of the DLI program.”
Mountain Point’s Spanish DLI program is still new—it began last year with first grade classes, with Garrido being the only Spanish teacher at the school. She said the other first grade teachers welcomed her and supported her, even dressing in Mexican clothing and participating in a tortilla-making contest with her during last year’s Mexican Independence Day celebration.
Principal Elizabeth Felt doesn’t want the DLI students to feel separate from the other classes, so all the students are invited to participate in the cultural activities. Garrido said Mountain Point’s faculty, administration and parents have been extremely supportive.
“It’s just been a wonderful community, to be honest, very supportive of the program, even though some of the kids are not in the program,” Garrido said.
 
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