Craig Middle School students celebrate Latin American culture with food, crafts and talk | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig Middle School students celebrate Latin American culture with food, crafts and talk

Day's events follow sixth-grade study of Central and South American countries

Michael Neary

Rosa Gutierrez prepares tortillas during Craig Middle School’s Latin American Festival on Friday.





Rosa Gutierrez prepares tortillas during Craig Middle School's Latin American Festival on Friday.
Michael Neary

— Juan Carlos Alvarez, a sixth-grader at Craig Middle School, was thinking about things students could learn about Mexico on Friday. Juan was among the participants in the school's Latin American Festival, designed for sixth-grade social studies students.

"They can learn what Mexicans do for food — and how they work on different things," said Juan, whose family comes from Chihuahua, Mexico. He mentioned clothing and games, and he noted a word game called BASTA! in which players fill out, as quickly as they can, examples of categories such as fruits, colors and objects.

The Latin American Festival, which the middle school has conducted for the past several years, opened the door to the sort of conversation Juan was having. The festival included a session on Central and South American masks, a presentation on Ecuador and neighboring countries, the preparation of various Central and South American foods and a Mayan game — played in the gymnasium — called Pok-ta-Pok.

The festival came on the heels of some classroom study of Central and South America by the sixth-graders.

"We looked at language, religion, sports — and then we had them look at education," said sixth-grade teacher Kelly-Anne Kirk. She mentioned exports and imports, as well.

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On Friday, Kirk said students helped to prepare food for a traditional almuerzo, or lunch, and she pointed to fried plantains and a number of other dishes. Juan brought in flan and chicken quesadillas. Meanwhile, Rosa Gutierrez, mother to student Jordy Valles, was outside carefully preparing flour and corn tortillas.

Craig Middle School parents Scott and Kim Patterson, who have traveled extensively in Central and South America, delivered a presentation with photographs that detailed a host of stunning natural images.

Scott Patterson said he talked with students about topics including wildlife, volcanoes and the Mayan ruins.

Sixth-grade English teacher Kadi Wright explained some of the goals of the day's events.

"They just get a real feeling for how, traditionally, Latin American people do their crafts, their games and their food," Wright said. She noted that the very concept of making tortillas at home was something new for some students without Latin American roots.

Vicki Blomquist, also a sixth-grade English teacher, said the day — in addition to reinforcing lessons the students are learning in class — lets children with Latin American backgrounds show pride in their cultures.

"The Latin American kids are pretty proud today," Blomquist said. "It's nice to showcase those kids."

And for some students, the day sparked a desire to learn more.

"Out of the whole thing, I'm probably going to travel," said sixth-grader Emma Knez.