Our 6th grade students recently had the opportunity to design presentations about any topic they chose related to Puerto Rico. The book they use in their course includes not only language instruction but also information about the cultures of several highlighted countries; students are initially asked to bring in current news from the country or state they’re learning about, and that helps give the class a sense of what’s going on in that part of the world.
Their teacher, Señora Stevenson, says, “My role is mostly to make sure that we don’t have too many ‘repeat’ topics, but the students have a very diverse set of interests. This year we had presentations on holidays, food, the rain forest, animals, famous athletes, el Morro (a fort that was built to protect Puerto Rico from invasion), the different ethnic groups of Puerto Rico, chicken fighting, a famous series of interconnected caves, the geography of Puerto Rico, and the surfing culture of Isabela. I’ve been asking my students to share with their classmates for over a decade, and you know what? I learn something new every year.”
This year, for the first time, Señora Stevenson gave her students the choice of doing a poster or a Power Point presentation. “By the second presentation of the year,” she shares, “I had more students doing Power Points than I did posters. The students who did really terrific Power Point presentations were an inspiration to those students who hadn’t tried it yet.”
Because the students choose their own topics, they are engaged and excited about the learning, and you can really feel the energy they’re putting into it during their in-class research days. Students use both books and their iPads for research, and they’ve also found GoogleEarth helpful in assisting them to envision the places that they’re researching. Each presentation is supposed to take somewhere between three and five minutes, but some go a bit longer because the students are so engaged by what they’re learning.
Inspired by both their teacher and each other, our students were enthusiastic about their learning:
I had no idea that there was so much biodiversity in Puerto Rico! — Emily K.
I chose Puerto Rican animals, and one of them, the Indian mongoose, took up two slides! — Caden G.
I chose music, and I didn’t know that the beginnings of two kinds of music that were born in Puerto Rico, the bomba and plena, were originally introduced by African slaves. — Sontee S.
I was researching Puerto Rican basketball players, and I thought they would be people that I’d never heard of, but then it turned out that one of my favorite players is Puerto Rican, plus even some other players I know. I learned a lot! — Rishi M.
Rutgers Prep’s commitment to the study of languages is borne out by our schedule; our sixth graders have a forty minute Spanish class every day. “Visitors to our campus from other schools often say that they don’t spend as much time on their Spanish,” shared Señora Stevenson. We are pleased to partner with families who think of their children’s education in a global context, and who value the many doors that dedicated language study can open for learners of all ages.