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Science and Spanish Collaboration Enhances Student Learning

Science and Spanish Collaboration Enhances Student Learning

NPS Spanish teacher Ana Farach recently shared her work at DC Project Zero's "Inquiry, Reflection, Collaboration: An Exhibition of Teacher and Student Learning" at Sidwell Friends School. Her project, "Science and Spanish: From Language Study to Language Use," documents our 5th grade collaborative unit on the Amazon Rainforest and assessed the collaboration between the school's foreign language and science teachers.

Project Summary

For the 5th graders, the yearly unit on animals in Spanish started with a view into the national birds of Latin America. Concurrently, in science class, the students are learning about different ecosystems around the world, including the rainforest. They have learned about environmental factors, food webs (producers, consumers, and decomposers), and the interaction of living organisms with each other and their environment. The rainforest is one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. Its layers – the floor, the understory, the canopy, and the emergent layer – are each home to a variety of species adapted to grow and survive.

"Our science teacher, Dale Glass, took notice of our unit suggested we might collaborate. We decided that a good way of doing so was by looking at the rainforest unit in science and applying to the Spanish unit on animals," explains Farach. "I thereafter focused on giving the students material and language that they could use to complement their study of the rainforest in science class. I saw this collaboration as an opportunity to incorporate an often ignored aspect of the National Standards for Language Learning: Connections. By employing Connections, students may augment other areas of study. Moreover, Connections leads students outside the classroom and even beyond the guidance of their teacher. In addition to Connections, the standards include Communication, Cultures, Comparisons, and Communities."

Inspiration for the Work and Propellant Questions

  • How can we bring an interdisciplinary perspective into language study so as to dismantle cultural stereotypes and promote wider use of perspective-taking?
  • Did the exercises aid in dismantling cultural stereotypes associated with the study of Spanish?
  • Did it promote the learning of Spanish beyond the confines of the student-teacher relationship?
  • Do students grow in their interest for learning the language?
  • Do they begin to use it more, advertently or inadvertently?
  • Does the use of Project Zero routines for opening up spaces of inquiry actually promote language growth at the beginner level?
  • Next Steps

    As a maker-project, students will design and create a board game – in Spanish – that shows their understanding of the rainforest. Students are eager to apply their expertise from their Maroo board games, their experience with several science games (Deer Population Simulation and Arctic Bird Adaptations), and their practice with "Animales de Bosque Tropical" and Rainforest Bingo (in Spanish) to develop their own games.

    "It's been great fun to collaborate with Ana and I think the students are benefitting from the cross-curricular teaching," notes Glass.

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