When second-graders at Greenbriar West Elementary learn about Mexico, they do it in a fun way. Not only do they make items such as serapes and piñatas, they also participate in a Mexican fiesta.
Students in teachers Gayle Peterson, Cathy Munsterman, Suzie Hosey and Sara Schweigert's classes took part in the fiesta, last month, doing activities such as weaving, playing bingo with Spanish numbers, making yarn God's eyes, doing the Mexican Hat Dance and shaking maracas while wearing ponchos and sombreros, and tossing beanbags through a replica of an Aztec warrior.
"I liked making a piñata," said Austin Margarida, 8. "We used toilet-paper tubes and colored tissue paper and filled them with candy. I also liked making a God's eye out of yellow, blue, red, green, and orange yarn."
Piñatas and colored lights decorated the school library, Dec. 16, the day of the fiesta, but students also made several items in their classes. They wove fringed rugs out of colorful strips of construction paper, painted burlap ponchos and also made serapes and pictures of tropical birds out of construction paper.
In Peterson's class, children learned about Mexican food by making and eating tacos, plus tortilla chips and salsa. They also made paper passports, boarding passes and suitcases for an imaginary trip to Mexico. And Peterson gave them a tourist's guide to Mexico telling them facts abut the country.
Austin learned that, in Mexico, "They make piñatas with sugar sticks, oranges and fruits in them." If he got a chance to go there, he said, "I would see the Mexican markets where they sell fruits and rugs and clay figures."
Bridget Cleary, 7, said Mexico has lots of beaches and all kinds of snakes. "The people eat fruit and tortillas and spicy, hot chiles, and they drink chocolate milkshakes," she added. For the trip to Mexico, she said, "We made a huge airplane [in the classroom] out of chairs, and we ate a snack and watched 'Charlotte's Web' [as the in-flight movie]."
She said their passports contained their names, phones and addresses "and said we weren't criminals." If she got to visit, Bridget would "go to the beaches and buy little figures and a chocolate shake."
As for Blake Corry, 7, his favorite part of the fiesta was doing the Mexican Hat Dance "because we had imaginary partners and the music was really fast." He also liked making construction-paper birds — his was black, blue, yellow and white.
He'd also like to see the flying fish in Mexico, as well as dolphins and sharks. And he liked the trip they took in class. "Kids from Mrs. Peterson's second-grade class from last year came in and were the pilot and co-pilot," said Blake. "And people passed out food — fruit gushers."
Andy Han, 7, made a purple, red, blue and orange bird and especially liked the beanbag toss because he was good at it. He also enjoyed making God's eyes. Said Andy: "You have two Popsicle sticks, take yarn and make these cool designs."
He learned that "some part of Mexico is desert, some is jungle, and there are beaches and cities, too. I would like to visit the plateaus in between the mountains because I've never seen a plateau and I think I'd like the shape."
Mike Sciorra, 7 1/2, also liked doing the God's eye because "it takes a lot of work and you try your best." He said his took 12 minutes to make and he was going to hang it in his room.
"I like Mexico because they have amazing stuff there, like lagoons, mountains, a big plateau and rain forests," said Mike. "And they have lots of birds — toucans. There are ruins and pyramids there, about 50 feet high, and people are allowed to climb up some of them. I would like to go down in the lagoons and see all the pretty fish."
As for Sarah Palmer, 7, she enjoyed playing Spanish bingo and beanbag toss. She painted the word Mexico on her poncho, along with a hat on the back and mountains on the front. "I learned that a lot of words we use here are some of their words, like crocodile, and adobe for clay bricks," she said. And if she could go to Mexico, said Sarah, she'd see the temples there.
Brett Gibson, 8, said he'd "probably swim with the sharks — I kinda like sharks" if he visited Mexico. "And I'd buy huaraches [sandals] in the Mexican market. They eat tortillas and tacos, and they make piñatas out of clay pots."
Miranda Hudson, 7 1/2, explained that, when a baby's born in Mexico, "They make a God's eye — and every five years, they add a strip to it." She and her class saw a movie about ancient Mayan ruins and temples, and she'd like to see "the dragon shadow down the steps of one of the ruins" in person. She's also like to go snorkeling there.
"Mexico is famous for its jade," she added. "I'd get a jade necklace or bracelet."
Seven-year-old Frederick Bennett had fun "trying to get the beanbag through the hole — I got four through." He also learned some geography. Said Frederick: "We've been studying a Mexico map about the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean."
Grace McKnight, also 7, planned to give her God's eye to her sister for Christmas. "I learned that most people in Mexico speak Spanish, and they play soccer and bull-riding." She, too, would like to someday see Mexico's rain forests, deserts and pyramids.
Meanwhile, Brandon Vicinus, 8, liked making a poncho in class and decorated his with cacti and a star. "I learned that Mexico is big and has lots of oceans and people who speak Spanish," he said. If he could visit, he'd see "the beaches and the people building houses by hand."
As for Juliana Park, 7 1/2, she liked the Mexican Hat Dance "because we took turns using the maracas and the bongos." She planned to give her God's eye to her mom for a present. If she got to go to Mexico, she said, she'd head right for the beaches and would also "buy a picture of the ocean."