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Curriculum Spotlight

Bee Grant Update

Date Posted: 
Friday, January 25, 2019

In early December, the Manhattan Country School Farm was notified that we were awarded a grant from the Whole Kids Foundation and their partner The Bee Cause Project. The Whole Kids Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Whole Foods, offered a monetary grant or beekeeping equipment to schools and non-profit organizations. In our application, we opted for the $1500 monetary grant to expand our existing honey bee program which you can read about here.

On Tuesday, January 22, a delivery truck pulled into the Farm driveway and delivered an enormous box. Like kids at a birthday party we tore into the box. Inside, not only was there a grant check, but two new hives, guides, curriculum books, signage and packets of honey-based lip balm and skin care items.

There are different types of hives, the MCS Farm uses the traditional Langstroth hive; another model is a Mason Bee hive. Mason Bees are gentle, native bees that are incredible springtime pollinators. By raising them and increasing their population, it takes stress off the already struggling honey bees. The added Langstroth and Mason Bee hives will be added to our “bee yard” located in the lower garden. This will provide students with a third hive to investigate and learn from and an increased honey production.

The $1500 will go toward the purchase of more bee suits, apiary and honey extraction tools and a fourth honey bee hive. While we were thrilled to be awarded the financial grant, the additional equipment was a huge bonus to the Manhattan Country School Farm.

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Farm Class & Social Justice: Studying the Ethics of Labor in the NYS Dairy Industry

Date Posted: 
Friday, January 25, 2019

There are times at the Manhattan Country School Farm where we live in an agricultural bubble. 100% of the agricultural harvests are either consumed or utilized at the MCS Farm in Roxbury, NY or at meals on 85th Street. Our number one “product” is education -- educated and informed children, as such, we are somewhat shielded from the political landscape of farming. However our seventh and eighth grade students have been taking a deep dive into a political issue that has great bearing on the New York State dairy industry.

During winter Farming classes, the kids have been investigating the scale of dairy farms in the state and who provides the labor. The students learned that NY is the third largest dairy producer in the country, behind California and Wisconsin. They researched and learned that the price of milk paid to farmers is $17 per hundredweight. Milk is measured in pounds, with one gallon weighing approximately 8 lbs. and a hundredweight equaling 100 lbs. This is a fact they know intimately as they hand milk our cow and then hang the bucket on a scale to be weighed. They also discovered that the cost to produce this milk is $22 per hundredweight. Farmers are losing, on average $5 per hundred pounds of milk.

So how are dairy farmers staying in business? One solution has been for one or more family members to work “off the farm” jobs. Another is to grow or produce other crops or “value added” items on the farm for sale. A not-so-new, but growing strategy is to hire a less expensive labor force. While the work is extremely hard, dirty and dangerous, there is a ready and willing workforce. 83% of workers on New York dairy farms are undocumented immigrants. It’s nearly impossible for farmers to hire workers with legal documentation. Primarily, American workers have refused to do the work due to the difficulty, dangers, hours and wages. The seventh and eighth grade classes watched a documentary, where one segment showed interviews with people at an employment agency seeking a job. When told there were plenty of jobs on local dairy farms, the potential employees from the US were quick to say no, “I won’t do that work” or “those hours are too long.”   While there is a Visa program for visiting farm workers, it’s only seasonal. Historically, people from other countries, primarily Latin America would follow the harvest seasons of fruits and vegetables. No such worker Visa program exists for the dairy industry, which is not seasonal. There have been some attempts to change this law.

Being quite politically savvy, our students were quick to connect the dots of the current political administrations increased arrests, detention and deportation of undocumented immigrants and the need of the dairy industry to hire them.

Western New York has one of the largest Immigration and Custom Enforcement Detention Centers outside Texas and Arizona. Located in Batavia, New York, this ICE center, like many nationwide has site specific or “bed” quota. NYS dairy farms have been directly targeted in sweeps or raids that reduce or completely eradicate a farms work force. Often times, prospective farm workers have enough proper documentation for the farm owner to fill out required applications, but not enough to satisfy ICE.  During these sweeps, students learned undocumented farm workers are removed from the farm. Some are detained in the ICE detention center, but if the daily quota is filled, the people are often released, only to start working at another nearby farm. In the meantime, the farm that’s lost a group of trained workers hires new undocumented workers and the cycle continues.

The classes touched on the isolation many people feel when living and working so far from home and family. They explored what it must feel like to have language and cultural barriers. How do people without a driver’s license, let alone a vehicle, perform simple tasks like grocery shopping? The potential danger and inherent physical risks of dairy farming often lead to injuries. Will undocumented farm workers choose medical attention for injuries or stay silent to keep working in the shadows?

What happens next? Students will continue to research, investigate and discuss this issue on their spring Farm trips. They will eventually move on in their next stage of life, with a deeper understanding of these complex issues. Eventually, this shared knowledge will help inform their decisions as citizens and change-makers.

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2018 SingAlong Showcases Growth of Our Youngest Students

Date Posted: 
Friday, May 11, 2018

 

2018 Lower School SingAlong

The 4-5s through 7-8s shared songs and dances with their families at the annual SingAlong on Wednesday, May 9, 2018. The program theme, "Everything Grows," featured songs of the natural world, and illustrated how science touches our lives.

Drummers accompanied selections from Nigeria, Cuba, Zimbabwe and Appalachia. The main event, of course, was the children, who threw themselves into singing and dancing, taking ownership of the music and bringing us joy.

 

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MCS Families Learn Something New at Community Math Night

Date Posted: 
Friday, April 20, 2018

2018 Community Math Night

The eighth annual Manhattan Country School Community Math Night, an event where MCS families can experience the wonders and challenges of mathematics together, was themed around our school building, with all its interesting and sometimes puzzling features. Visitors could go on a scavenger hunt, searching our shared spaces for all kinds of unique shapes, including an irregular dodecahedron (that is, a 12-sided polygon where all the sides are not equal), tessellating diamonds and odd combinations of circles, rectangles and triangles that form light switches, radiator covers and towel dispensers. 

2018 Community Math Night

2018 Community Math Night

Families also learned about one of the overlooked features of the building, which is that every room is numbered in Braille, the system of raised dots used by the visually impaired to read or “feel” language. By wandering from door to door, visitors were able to compile a list of all the digits from 0 through 9 that make up the Braille numbering system, and then use that to decode a set of room numbers. Those who successfully completed the task discovered that the rooms they decoded don't exist and the room numbers on each floor are not sequential. On the third floor, for example, room 300 is located next to room 302, and room 306 is next to room 310, omitting rooms 307, 308 and 309.

2018 Community Math Night

2018 Community Math Night

Finally, families could choose to take an orange "explore" card, where they could learn about many other features of the MCS campus, including the fact that the number of steps from the first to second floor varies depending on which staircase you use, or that our water fountains are keeping an eye on how much water we save by using them to fill our water bottles.

2018 Community Math Night

Many thanks to our sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade docents who helped families navigate all the different challenges, and the families for coming out to challenge their brains!

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Mentoring Day Gives Eighth-Graders a Taste of Professional Life

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 16, 2018

8th Grade Mentoring Day

Each year, Manhattan Country School eighth-graders have the opportunity to learn about a career of interest as part of Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day. On March 9, the year’s eighth-graders visited members of the MCS community to observe them at work.

The following mentors, representing MCS alumni, current parents, board members and friends of the community, participated in this year’s event:

  • Marika Hughes ’85, professional cellist
  • Marcin Sawicki (current parent and MCS trustee), programmer and developer at Jane Street Capital
  • Vanessa Potkin (current parent), senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project
  • Maida Galvez (current parent), pediatrician and associate professor of environmental medicine and public health and pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Cappy Collins (MCS friend), doctor, Mount Sinai Center for Advanced Medicine
  • Brian Abell (current parent and former MCS trustee), architect at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
  • David Hein (current parent), playwright, songwriter and actor
  • Gabe Miller ’71, copy chief at Sports Illustrated (Students will visit Gabe on April 4.)

When the eighth-graders returned from their Mentoring Day outings, they were asked to share their thoughts about their experience. Here’s a sampling of what they had offer:

William A., Morgan C., Jonas B. and Violet K. spent the morning at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre with David Hein, co-writer of the Broadway musical “Come From Away.” “I learned about acting, behind the scenes, how hard it is and how much precision it takes,” shared Violet.

Sydney J., Roxy S., Brianna H., Ruby S. and Ariana W. spent time with doctors Maida Galvez and Cappy Collins, who specialize in environmental health. “I learned that everyone can ‘be a doctor’,” said Ruby. “Everyone contributes to society’s health, whether it’s a doctor or an MTA bus driver.”

Stella A. met with architect Brian Abell. Stella hoped to learn about the field of architecture, particularly the design aspect of it. While with Brian, she learned about the steps of modelling and making buildings. Her advice to future Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day participants?: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

We are grateful to everyone who played a part in making this year’s Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day a success. Those in the MCS community who are interested in hosting students for the 2019 Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day should contact Akemi Kochiyama at akochiyama@manhattancountryschool.org.

2018 Activism Project Update: Shatter the Silence. Stop Domestic Violence

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 16, 2018

We are writing to update you on our activism work and to ask for your help and support in our campaign to end domestic violence.

WE CHOSE THIS TOPIC BECAUSE

2018 Activism Project People are being hurt and killed, one in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. There are even some families in our community that this may affect and we don’t want this to affect us or anyone else. Our government is not doing enough to end this problem. When we look more deeply at this issue, we realize that it connects to other uprising movements such as #metoo and the movement to end gun violence.

SO FAR WE HAVE LEARNED

So far we have learned about how women turned the tide on domestic violence, the relationship between mass shootings and domestic violence and the loopholes in our laws that allow abusers to have guns such as the boyfriend loophole. In our healthy relationships workshop we learned about teen dating and communication. We also learned about the impact of domestic violence on children. By creating our own problem trees we learned about the role of gender norms, sexism or male supremacy, and entitlement as root causes of domestic violence. In other words we learn to behave like this and we can learn to behave differently. We also learned why this is a men’s issue and the important role men and boys have in solving it.

BASED ON WHAT WE’VE LEARNED SO FAR, OUR DEMANDS ARE

  • More funding and awareness for domestic violence shelters and services
  • Keep guns out of the hands of abusers
  • Teach young people about healthy relationships

WHAT ELSE HAVE WE BEEN UP TO?

We have been lucky to have some exciting guest speakers.

  • Ana Raquel and her colleague from Sanctuary for Families came to present on Domestic Violence 101 and on healthy relationships. They had us watch a documentary that everyone loved called The Mask You Live In (available on Netflix).
  • The boundary-breaking photographer Donna Ferrato, who took some of the first major photos about domestic violence and has been working on the issue for decades, visited us. Her book Living With the Enemy covers this topic and she launched the “I am Unbeatable” campaign that features and supports people who have left their abusers.  
  • Christina Swarns, former litigation director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, spoke to us about how she argued in front of the Supreme Court about a domestic violence case in which the man, who was guilty, was given the death penalty because the prosecutor argued that he was more likely to re-offend because he was black.

SOME FACTS AND IDEAS THAT STAND OUT TO US ARE:

  • Someone is five times more likely to be murdered by their abusive spouse if there is a gun in the house
  • One in 10 teenagers in New York City schools reports experiencing physical or sexual violence in a dating relationship within the past year.
  • One in three teens report experiencing some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse.
  • Every three months there are as many people killed in domestic violence as died in 9/11
  • It’s not about blaming men but understanding and changing toxic gender roles
  • As of 2014, males were four times more likely to commit suicide than their female counterparts, representing 79 percent of all U.S. suicides. Firearms are the most common suicide method amongst men, while females commonly use poisoning. (Outdated gender roles harm men as well as women.)
  • Hurt people hurt people—people who have been abused are more likely to
  • One-tenth of men admitted to raping a woman or girl in one UNDP study
  • One-third of women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime

As young people take the lead in changing our gun laws to end school shootings, let’s also remember that most of the people who committed mass shootings have also committed domestic violence. Keeping guns out of the hands of abusers will keep everyone safer and preventing domestic abuse will help prevent other forms of violence. That’s why we are so excited to change our gun laws in New York State. However, most of these forms of violence are committed by men, and so much violence happens in relationships. We have to think about how boys are raised, what ideas we pass on about masculinity and help young people develop healthy relationships. That’s why we’re excited to teach our peers and make sure other schools do so too.

Thank you in advance for your help as we work to change our laws, our culture, and our society. Let’s Shatter the Silence and Stop Domestic Violence.

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5-6s Mark the 100th Day of School

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 2, 2018

100th Day of School

On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, Manhattan Country School’s two 5-6s classes celebrated the 100th Day of School. This annual observance showcases the students’ creativity and developing math skills.

5-6s Norte

100th Day of School

In preparation for the big day, students in 5-6s Norte worked on family projects that involved creating something using 100 items. Some examples included a poster with 100 images of black women, a flag made out of 100 condiment packets, a hanging display of 100 paperclips, a collection of 100 drawings of superheros and a photo album with 100 baby pictures.

100th Day of School

Families were invited to visit the classroom Tuesday morning to join the students in the 100th Day of School celebration. The room was decorated with chains made of 100 paper links. Guests were treated to a special trail mix made with 100 pieces of each ingredient. Students and guests engaged in math activities, including skip counting to 100. Visitors were challenged to guess which jar contained 100 items. Later in the day, 5-6s Norte hosted fellow schoolmates and many MCS faculty and staff members.

5-6s Sur

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur also welcomed guests to their classroom to witness the many ways they celebrated 100. They counted to 100 by ones, twos and fives, and hosted a Hundreds Museum. Exhibits included structures made with 100 Legos and artwork made with 100 pegs. The students also built objects using smaller groups of materials (e.g. 25 Mobilos, snap cubes or magnetic pattern blocks). These creations were displayed together to make collective groups of 100.

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur participated in 100 minutes of reading, with 10 guests from the MCS community reading to the class for 10 minutes each. The children were so excited to meet new grownups and to recognize familiar faces. Maiya, MCS' Upper School director, read her favorite book from her childhood (which is also Laleña’s!), Who’s A Pest? by Crosby Newall Bonsall. Next, Shani, the fifth-grade teacher, read The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood, complete with sound effects and help from the 5-6s. Then Mary, the Lower School director, read two chapters from the classic, Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel.

100th Day of School

After snack, Bonnie, who is a learning specialist for older children in the Lower School, read Max’s Words by Kate Banks, a charming story of siblings and the power of story. Then Flannery, MCS' seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher read Yo Soy el Durazno by Luis de Noriega en español.  Before lunch, Amanda, MCS' food program coordinator, read Potluck by Anne Shelby. Angela, MCS' communications director, who has a six-year-old at home, shared a book that she bought for her child when he was five. Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker was a huge hit with our five- and six-year olds. MCS Director Michéle read Fiesta by Ginger Foglesong Guy, a book that counts in both English and Spanish, After rest, Donovan, the Upper School choral director, sang as he read his book, The Spiffiest Giant in Town, by Julia Donaldson. Nancy Hsu, the MCS Fund and special events manager, finished with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by the ever-popular Mo Willems.

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Class of 2026 5-6s Celebrate 100th Day of School

Date Posted: 
Friday, March 2, 2018

100th Day of School

On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, Manhattan Country School’s two 5-6s classes celebrated the 100th Day of School. This annual observance showcases the students’ creativity and developing math skills.

5-6s Norte

100th Day of School

In preparation for the big day, students in 5-6s Norte worked on family projects that involved creating something using 100 items. Some examples included a poster with 100 images of black women, a flag made out of 100 condiment packets, a hanging display of 100 paperclips, a collection of 100 drawings of superheros and a photo album with 100 baby pictures.

100th Day of School

Families were invited to visit the classroom Tuesday morning to join the students in the 100th Day of School celebration. The room was decorated with chains made of 100 paper links. Guests were treated to a special trail mix made with 100 pieces of each ingredient. Students and guests engaged in math activities, including skip counting to 100. Visitors were challenged to guess which jar contained 100 items. Later in the day, 5-6s Norte hosted fellow schoolmates and many MCS faculty and staff members.

5-6s Sur

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur also welcomed guests to their classroom to witness the many ways they celebrated 100. They counted to 100 by ones, twos and fives, and hosted a Hundreds Museum. Exhibits included structures made with 100 Legos and artwork made with 100 pegs. The students also built objects using smaller groups of materials (e.g. 25 Mobilos, snap cubes or magnetic pattern blocks). These creations were displayed together to make collective groups of 100.

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur participated in 100 minutes of reading, with 10 guests from the MCS community reading to the class for 10 minutes each. The children were so excited to meet new grownups and to recognize familiar faces. Maiya, MCS' Upper School director, read her favorite book from her childhood (which is also Laleña’s!), Who’s A Pest? by Crosby Newall Bonsall. Next, Shani, the fifth-grade teacher, read The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood, complete with sound effects and help from the 5-6s. Then Mary, the Lower School director, read two chapters from the classic, Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel.

100th Day of School

After snack, Bonnie, who is a learning specialist for older children in the Lower School, read Max’s Words by Kate Banks, a charming story of siblings and the power of story. Then Flannery, MCS' seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher read Yo Soy el Durazno by Luis de Noriega en español.  Before lunch, Amanda, MCS' food program coordinator read Potluck by Anne Shelby. Angela, MCS' communications director, who has a six-year-old at home, shared a book that she bought for her child when he was five. Even Superheroes Have Bad Days by Shelly Becker was a huge hit with our five- and six-year olds. MCS Director Michéle read Fiesta by Ginger Foglesong Guy, a book that counts in both English and Spanish, After rest, Donovan, the Upper School choral director, sang as he read his book, The Spiffiest Giant in Town, by Julia Donaldson. Nancy Hsu, the MCS Fund and special events manager, finished with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by the ever-popular Mo Willems.

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6-7s' Neighborhood Study Builds Understanding of Community

Date Posted: 
Thursday, February 8, 2018

Bicycle Renaissance

The 6-7s have been doing a neighborhood study, learning about the Upper West Side and more broadly, the different aspects of a neighborhood and what allows it to function. This is an extension of our earlier investigation into the school, specifically the different workers within it and how they help it operate on a day-to-day basis. In looking at our neighborhood, we are asking ‘What does a community need in order to function, and how do the people in that community help to support it?’

To begin our neighborhood study we went on impressionistic walks in the area around Manhattan Country School. In small research groups, we noticed different stores, workers and services. When we saw something interesting (like a Citi Bike hub or a veterinarian office), we would stop and talk about it. This allowed us to share what we already know, but also to ask questions aloud about what we wondered and wanted to learn.

Following this, each of the four research groups picked an aspect of the neighborhood to study further. We decided to learn more about food, transportation, health/safety, and clothing. Each group then visited a place in the neighborhood that specialized in each of those arenas.

Young Clothing Cleaners

In our respective groups we visited Bicycle Renaissance, Animal General, Young Clothing Cleaners, and our very own MCS Kitchen. Upon returning from these trips, each group shared their findings with the rest of the students and made books to document what we learned.

In addition to our visits, we had people familiar with these fields come to our classrooms and talk about what they do. MariaTere came and talked about how she makes clothing, Madison’s dad, Arian, visited wearing his MTA conductor’s outfit and answered all our questions about the subway, Thomas’ mom, Maida, came to talk about being a pediatrician, and Alyssa from Zone 7, which provides the school’s produce, spoke about food and farming.

MTA Worker Visits the 6-7s

All these visits were scaffolded with carefully chosen books that were read during storytime. Sally Goes to the Vet, for example, illustrated what happens when we take our pets to the doctor. Subway, relayed in rhymes, addressed the major mode of transportation that we use. And A Bus Called Heaven made us all think about the similarities between a community and a neighborhood.

6-7s Neighborhood Art Project

Meanwhile, in art, Janice introduced a way to make small building facades with doors and windows that open. And in our own classroom worktimes, we began doing puppet shows, constructing small characters out of paper and popsicle sticks. We realized that it would be a wonderful culminating activity to build our own neighborhood in miniature. After brainstorming about what our neighborhood would need, children set to work constructing buildings and vehicles that related to their particular research group. As our neighborhood came together, the students’ contributions extended beyond just buildings to include other things we needed, like workers, roads, parks and trees.

6-7s Neighborhood Map

As our neighborhood continues to evolve, it resembles the growth of any small town. What started out as a few ramshackle buildings has grown beyond the scope of the wall in the third floor flex space as the students continue to come up with new ideas, new necessities. And this very growth mimics the thinking and development of a child, whose sphere of understanding is continuing to grow from thinking about themselves and their family, to thinking about their classroom and the school, and then the neighborhood, and their city, their country, and eventually the whole world.

Spanish at MCS: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Learning

Date Posted: 
Thursday, February 8, 2018

Lower School Tertulia

In the real world, learning is a naturally interdisciplinary process. In the Spanish program at Manhattan Country School, students engage in activities and communication that are relevant. In the Lower School, in order to plan for an upcoming celebration, students need math to understand how calendars work, music to sing, art to decorate, language arts and science to follow a recipe and games to play. In this child-centered context, with attention to emotions as well as intellect, our students are not preparing for a distant future. Age-appropriate curriculum, guided by students’ interests, encourages students to share and gain a deeper sense of self, their peers and the greater world, all while communicating in Spanish.

For example, the 4-5s are naturally curious about the animals and plants that live in our local environment, and that we grow for food at the MCS Farm. Later, science is embedded as they notice the parts of the plant used in our cooking. Young students are ready to take surveys, then create and interpret graphs. In the 7-8s, students engage in an interdisciplinary study of self and family. This follows their social studies strand and provides a framework for students to talk about their lives in Spanish. In the 8-9s, farm-city connections expand. Students draw and label maps, describing themselves weaving, cooking, milking a cow, collecting eggs, hiking in nature, harvesting potatoes and even cleaning stalls. And always, playing with friends. While in preparation for their study of Chilean arpilleras, the 9-10s create lists of familiar adjectives and pronouns such as amigable, creativo, activista y granjero to describe the people that continue to inspire activism within our school community.

In the Upper School students use the vocabulary from previous years as the Spanish curriculum continues to focus on learning by doing. For example, in fifth grade, before grammar and sentence structures are introduced formally, students begin the year learning, memorizing and performing a short Spanish play titled “Rafael, Elisa y El Tigre” about three students from Washington D.C. who run away to New York City. After they learn weather vocabulary, they create their own Spanish weather channel report, and as prepositions are incorporated they work on making a scavenger hunt around the school. Technology is introduced so that students can film and record themselves doing Spanish assignments in class. The central focus is to make Spanish useful and project-based, while also incorporating a curriculum that aligns with other middle school language programs taught in New York City independent schools.

In sixth grade students cover present tense forms and continue to create plays and skits. They also begin linking Spanish to activism by exploring their Spanish-speaking country of choice, doing research and identifying human rights issues in Latin America. In seventh and eighth grade, the program includes quizzes and tests, but students continue with project-based learning. For example, they recently studied, wrote and produced their own Spanish telenovelas, wrote poetry based on the book La Casa de Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, did a voice-dubbing project over the silent film “Oktapodi,” created their own Spanish scavenger hunt at the MCS Farm, read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Spanish, talked about Cuba’s future after the death of Fidel Castro and responded to readings about immigrant women and children in detention facilities.

We are grateful that MCS gives us the space and resources to move away from traditional teaching and allows us to engage students by teaching through art, music, activism and project-based learning. Through the achievements we have witnessed of currents students and alumni, we are confident that this interdisciplinary curriculum is successful in helping students love and retain a new language.

The article originally appeared in the 2017 MCS Courtyard magazine.

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