From Chaska to Chile

| March 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

Students at Guardian Angels School connect with South American peers as part of new language program

Second-graders at Guardian Angels School in Chaska exchange greetings with students in Chile via webcam as part of the school’s international language program. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

About 20 fidgety second-graders lined up in a hallway at Guardian Angels School in Chaska March 17. Their teacher, Annette Hritz, instructed them to practice in their minds what they were going to say when it was their turn to enter the narrow room beside the technology lab.

At 12:15 p.m., Greg Blaufuss, technology coordinator, glanced up from the Mac monitor in front of him to announce: “We have a connection.”

Moments later, several quizzical little faces appeared on a television screen.

With a chorus of excited “hellos” and “holas” exchanged via webcam, Guardian Angels launched an international language program to connect its students with students at a Christian school in Chile.

Global education

Cecilia Laube, whose daughter, Taylor, is a second-grader at Guardian Angels, looked on as the children introduced themselves and named their favorite foods in Spanish.

Laube, who is president of the parent-teacher organization, said she came up with the idea for the international language program, using technology like Skype and email, as a way to differentiate Guardian Angels from other schools in the district.

Students at Guardian Angels begin learning Spanish in kindergarten.

“In today’s global environment, our kids need to be aware of different languages as well as different cultures,” Laube said.

Earlier in the school year, Laube discussed the idea of a culture and language exchange with her brother, Omar Alvarez, who is principal at Almondale School in Concepción, Chile. A partnership was born.

“I think it’s a great use of technology, language and the kids’ spirit to connect with others,” Laube said.

In the coming months, students will be matched up with “pen pals” in Chile, who they’ll correspond with through email to develop their writing skills, said principal Amy Gallus. They’ll also produce and swap videos so the students can compare their school days with those of their counterparts in Chile.

By the end of the school year, students in all grade levels will be participating in the program, Gallus said.

Looking to the future

Longer-term, Guardian Angels plans to partner with schools in other countries and equip technology labs so that students can converse one-on-one.

“I would love to see it evolve into a foreign exchange program where some of our students go down there and they come up here, or a teacher exchange program,” Gallus said. “I think it has a lot of potential.”

After the children in Chile finished their introductions in English, they performed their school song. A group of Guardian Angels students reciprocated with a song about St. Patrick’s Day.

Then all of the students crammed into the tiny room to wave “adios” to their new friends across the globe.

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