Connecting with our Local and International LCS Communities
By Libby Dalrymple
Celebrating the “El Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) at Lakefield College school presented unique, authentic learning opportunities for Spanish students to connect with our local and international LCS communities. We are so fortunate to have have Mexican students and families at our school, many of whom partake in this celebration at home. To learn more about traditions that are part of this celebration, the Grade 11 Spanish class created questions that they had about various aspects of the celebration. They then incorporated those questions into interviews that they conducted (in Spanish) with Mexican students. Having real conversations with native speakers is a fantastic way for those who are learning Spanish to build their confidence and fluency in the language in a meaningful way. They expanded their learning outside the walls of the classroom to Mexico City by having a “Zoom” video conference online with Ruth Sarquis and Martha Abedrop (mothers of Valentina Boren, Grade 10, and Carlota Walker, Grade 9). These two wonderful women gave the students a guided tour of two Day of the Dead altars in their homes, explaining in detail and answering questions about the symbolism and significance of various objects. By participating in a conversation, the students were able to gain true insight into the history and cultural significance of this celebration. It was a fascinating conversation that enabled them to answer the broader essential question, “What can a celebration teach us about cultural beliefs and values?”
An important Day of the Dead tradition for many Mexicans is visiting and decorating the graves of their family’s ancestors. The Grade 12 Spanish students made their annual pilgrimage to the Lakefield Cemetery to visit the ancestors of the Lakefield College School family. In keeping with Mexican tradition, they visited the cemetery at night, which took many of them outside their comfort zone. As they visited the graves, they heard stories about former headmasters and faculty members that many of them only knew by name alone: Mackenzie, Sheldrake, Rashleigh, Ryder, Lefevre, Matthews and Winder Smith. They also visited the grave of former student Jeffrey Shearer and learned the story of his tragic fatal ski accident in 1977. As they visited each grave, they placed a flower on the tombstone and said, “Gracias por tu vida. Gracias por tus contribuciones.” (Thank you for your life. Thank you for your contributions.”) Their visit culminated with the sharing of a snack and sparklers, which was representative of the Mexican tradition of having a picnic and fireworks.
Through their linguistic and cultural exploration, the Grade 11 and 12 Spanish students were able to engage in authentic learning that connected them with our local and international community in a way that virtually and physically took them outside. We are grateful for the Mexican students and parents who enrich our learning in so many ways.