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The City Journals

‘Authentic’ field trip allows middle school students to order lunch in Spanish

Mar 08, 2018 03:14PM ● By Julie Slama

Riverton’s Salsa Leedos owner Travis Bonino serves food to Elk Ridge Middle School students after they ordered their meals in Spanish. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

At Riverton’s Salsa Leedos, parent volunteer Donna Lucas eagerly awaited the arrival of Spanish II students from Elk Ridge Middle School.

“My son Wyatt is so excited about coming and trying to order in Spanish,” she said.

The field trip to the Mexican restaurant was an opportunity for students to practice their Spanish pronunciation and ability to ask questions, said their teacher, Brock Hampton.

“It’s our first time coming here, but I’ve heard some other schools have had good experiences here with their students,” he said. “We’ve practiced how to order in Spanish, so this is a chance for them to try and see how they do.”

On hand was owner Travis Bonino, general manager Jake Bright and manager Kandi Masters, along with other servers, some of whom were fluent in Spanish.

“We like to make this fun and hope it will be a field trip they’ll remember for years,” Bright said. 

Bright said that for the field trip, they offered four entrée options: a bean and cheese burrito, a cheese enchilada combination, a chicken fajita burrito and a taco combination. He said the options were items kids may like as well as the staff could quickly make to get them back to school on time.

When the students arrived, the restaurant quickly filled with 63 students as well as a handful of chaperones.

For student Kristy Tran, it was her first time eating at a Mexican restaurant.

“I’ll be able to try some food from their culture at the same time as trying to order,” she said as she prepared to order the chicken fajita burrito.

Sitting with her were classmates Zoie McMahon and Natalie Tapia. Both girls had Mexican origins, so their families eat Mexican food at home. Zoie had helped her mother make salsa, and Natalie’s family had piñatas at parties.

Hampton said he tries to include cultural activities while teaching students. They’ve sampled fresh Peruvian salsa (and now can compare it to Mexican salsa, which he said most are made from roasted tomatoes); they make Guatemalan friendship bracelets; and they have a piñata at the end of the year. Often, he has guest speakers tell them about living or traveling abroad.

“Our (curriculum) standards don’t tell us to have students study certain words, but I want them to be prepared for real-life experiences, so I try to have several authentic experiences,” he said. “We’re learning vocabulary about shopping now, but instead of taking 63 preteens shopping, I’m asking them to creating skits about it.” 

While Spanish I students learn about the civilizations before Christopher Columbus, such as the Aztec, Mayas and Incas, his Spanish II students create models and dioramas of famous places, such as Angel Falls in Venezuela.

“It’s a way for them to learn about the countries and the culture, not just repeating dialogue or conjugating verbs,” he said.

Hampton said that 20 countries have Spanish as their official language, but more speak it.

“Each country may have some of their own vocabulary, but by studying Spanish, they’ll be able to communicate,” he said.

While at the restaurant, Hampton wanted students to converse with the staff in hopes they would speak and then listen and understand what was being asked.

“It’s amazing how well they’ve improved,” he said as students were finishing their meal.