Upper Schoolers tackle fears and learn Spanish at the same time
Seeking to find an immersive and culturally informative experience for Spanish learners, Upper School Spanish Teacher Gian Molero arranged a trip for twelve of her Upper School 1 and 2 students to Orlando, Florida, where they spent a week at Camp Guaikinima. A Spanish-language immersion camp run by instructors from Venezuela, the camp helps students not only learn the language, but bond together and overcome and manage personal fears through physical and emotional challenges.
"It was beautiful to see," said Molero. "Based on us coming back from the trip and telling everyone how much fun we had and what we learned, I'm expecting this program to grow if we offer it again."
Instructors spoke to the students entirely in Spanish, talking them through activities like ropes courses, climbing exercises, team water adventures, and more. Some students had more athletic backgrounds than others, but all quickly learned to push themselves above and beyond what they thought possible. Molero herself said that some of her fears were tested and challenged by the experience as well, but that the lessons learned were well worth the effort. "You have to fail several times and persevere," she said.
Although Molero wasn't formally teaching as she would in a classroom, the students still had to flex their language acquisition muscles quite a bit. Because the use of verbs and the accompanying grammatical considerations is one of the hardest things to learn in a new language, Molero said, the active nature of the camp was particularly helpful.
"We learned and practiced a great deal of vocabulary," she said. "I think there's a great thing that happens when you really expose yourself to the language in more than a class period — you get more of an experiential learning opportunity. It brings more meaning to the learning. And having fun always helps you learn more."
By all accounts, despite the challenging subject matter and obstacles the students had to work through, there was plenty of fun to go around. "We had a great cultural component to the academically informal experience as well," said Molero, adding that students were able to experience Venezuelan cooking, music, and dancing.