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The City Journals

Silver Mesa Celebrates South American Culture

Aug 10, 2015 10:00AM ● By Bryan Scott

Silver Mesa

By Julie Slama

Students at Spanish dual immersion school Silver Mesa learned the Spanish names of ingredients in arepas, a South American dish that students call “delicious chubby pancake-tortillas.” 

“I like learning new words and trying foods from other places,” third grader Sara Bryner said. “It’s fun rolling the dough in our hands.”

Her classmate Ireland Adams agreed: “They’re fun to make and they’re really good. And we learned a game that’s really fun, too.”

On May 20, Karen White, who is a Spanish aide at Silver Mesa, led the students through learning the ingredients and utensils needed to make arepas, starting by kneading the dough. She also said that the fried arepas are served for snacks or lunch, and had butter and jams for students to spread upon them. 

Although White is from Nicaragua, she told her students that arepas are common in Venezuela and Columbia and had students learn where those countries are on a map and told them a little about the countries.

“I helped make them last year with second graders, and it went over so well that I thought I should do it this year for all the students in first grade through fifth,” she said.

White also introduced the students to a game called “Manzita” from her childhood in Nicaragua.

“Culture is so important. It opens up the mind and the world around them. By learning a little about South American food and games, they’ll learn more language at the same time,” White said.

She said that the lesson ties in history and geography to the curriculum. Plus, fourth- and fifth-grade students study measurements, so by learning how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon or cups in a gallon while making arepas, they are studying math at the same time as Spanish.

Third-grade teacher Sheila McDonald appreciated the lesson.

“It is good to give students exposure to all cultures and embrace and celebrate our diversity,” McDonald said. “We study families and traditions, and with our reading unit we learn about different breads from different cultures, so this fits right into that. It’s a way that our neighborhood kids can be included in learning Spanish culture with our dual immersion students.”