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Students Steep Themselves in Mexican Culture

The annual Mexican Fiesta at Greenbriar West Elementary is always a hit with the second-graders there, and the one held recently was no exception. Children made piñatas, wove on a loom, ate sopapillas and did the Mexican Hat Dance.

STUDENTS IN the classes of teachers Cathy Munsterman, Gayle Peterson, Carol Victain and Marianne Sherman participated. They even took a pretend trip to Mexico and, while doing all these enjoyable activities and more, they learned quite a bit about the country and its people.

"The neatest thing is that they speak Spanish," said Abhi Kasanagottu, 8. "I learned the numbers and can count to 10. And we also learned 'gracias' and 'hola.' I liked when we did number bingo [at the festival]. It was fun because, if you won, you got a stamp of a sun — and I won two times."

Priyanka Shah, 7 1/2, made a blue felt serape and painted it with "flowers, stars, squiggly lines and circles." And she liked doing the Mexican Hat Dance at the festival. "You move your feet, clap and turn around with your partner," she explained. Priyanka also learned that people in Mexico like "making clay figures, sandals and tortillas and selling them at the marketplace."

Sara Margarida, 7 1/2, liked playing Mexican bingo and learned that Mexicans "use corn in a lot of meals, like tacos." And she had fun creating a piñata out of a toilet-paper roll covered with colorful tissue paper and filled with candy.

Joey Reid, also 7 1/2, learned that the Aztecs built the pyramids and the Mexicans built many houses out of "earth, straw and clay that was dried in the sun." And he loved eating Mexican food with his classmates. "We got to eat sopapillas — fried bread with cinnamon on the top," he said. "My mom made them."

AND ALTHOUGH Emily Sciorra, 7, didn't remember what they were called, she said those "little dessert things tasted really good." She also liked eating tacos and chips and making the construction-paper suitcase for her trip to Mexico. "I put in a passport, a guidebook and fake pesos," she said. "And at the end, when we took our suitcases home, Mrs. Peterson put in all the papers we did about Mexico."

Another activity at the fiesta was a beanbag toss at a drawing of an Aztec person on cardboard. "I got 14 points," said Kate Doherty, 7, proudly. She learned that Mexicans barter for goods and, if she got to visit their country, she'd want to "see their stores and mountains."

Seven-year-old Katie McGrath said her favorite thing was making a piñata, and she learned that "Mexico is a really hot place." If she could go there, she said, "I would see some fairs and buy scarves and little shoes like sandals — huaraches.

As for Kevin Xu, 7, he "liked making the tacos because we got to eat lettuce, cheese, tortilla scoops [like chips] and brownies" after the fiesta. He also had fun making a God's eye because "you got to get five pieces of [different-colored] string and wrap them around sticks." He learned that Mexicans make homes out of adobe and, if he got to visit, he'd see "lots of farms with lots of corn growing, and people buying things at the stores."

Also enjoying crafting a God's eye was Meghann Ashey, 7, "because it's really fun and looks really pretty when it's done." The neatest thing she learned about Mexico was that "it has 200 willow trees, and I thought that was really cool." Meghann also liked making information cards about Mexican culture, land, history and people. And if she could visit, she'd see "the Copper Canyon and a 91-step pyramid."

Michelle Pfoltzer, 7, liked making a report about Mexico. She said Mexicans "eat cactus leaves and make big, fake butterflies. You hang them on your ceiling and you can pull a string with a flower at the end and make the wings flap." On a trip to Mexico, she said, "I'd like to see the beach and I'd bring back Mexican dollars."

Weaving on a loom was Dylan Robertson's favorite activity. "I used blue, red and orange [thread]," he said. "And I liked doing the research about Mexico. I learned there are 5,000 languages in the whole world and 52 in Mexico." If he could go there, said Dylan, 7, he'd "like to see the Mexican people who jump off high cliffs to go swimming in the water."

FOR HONOR HOPLER, 7, the best part was doing the Mexican Hat Dance "because I liked the music and my friend Juhee was my partner." She, too, would like to see the Copper Canyon, and she learned that one Mexican volcano "erupted for two years."

Nathan Hoadley, 8, liked making a piñata "because you put stuff on it to make it look nice." He also liked the beanbag toss. "One time, I made all three of my throws," he said. Nathan learned that Mexicans wear hats made out of straw, and he said that a volcano erupted from 1870-1872.

Eight-year-old Alec Zhang said doing the bingo helped him learn how to count in Spanish up to 20, instead of just 12. He'd like to someday see the rainforests and deserts in Mexico and, while researching that country, he gained a wealth of knowledge.

"Mexico has a population of approximately 87,341,000 people," said Alec. "One of the worst earthquakes hit Mexico City, the capital, in 1981, I think, and killed more than 10,000 people and left thousands homeless. And a lot of tall buildings crashed and broke."

As for Jasper Treakle, 8, he had fun making a God's eye because "I like making stuff like that with yarn." He said Mexican people make lots of baskets and painted trays, and he'd like to go there someday and "see if their houses are different than ours."

Antonia George, 7 1/2, liked making the piñata and God's eye and learned a bit about Mexican clothing. "Before, the women wore a skirt and a shirt, and the men just wore something around their waists," she said. "Now, they wear clothes similar to ours."

Meanwhile, 7-year-old Katie McClintock, had the best time dancing "because we practiced and it was fun." She also enjoyed making a serape. "Mine was blue with flowers and stars," she said. Katie learned about holidays and said Mexicans celebrate Christmas, Easter and a day of the dead.

And Andy Kim, also 7, liked researching. "The Aztecs had gods that helped them defeat others in battle," he said. "I'd like to see the Lost Temple where the Aztecs lost their first battle against Spain."

Aaron Farley, 7 1/2, had fun decorating his piñata and would like to see a real Mexican fiesta in its native country. So what was his favorite part of the school's fiesta? Replied Aaron: "When we got to throw beanbags into the hole, because I like to throw things."