National Hispanic Heritage Month spans the second half of September and the first half of October providing a month-long opportunity to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans on the United States.
At Hopeville Elementary School in Waterbury, which has many students who are recent arrivals from Latin America, teachers see Hispanic Heritage Month as the perfect opportunity to recognize and celebrate students’ culture and heritage.
Maria Alicia Azar teaches a bilingual second grade class that includes many students who are recent arrivals from Puerto Rico and countries including the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Venezuela.
“It’s very important to recognize where our students are coming from as a way to let them know that we are all important, no matter where we’re from,” says Azar.
“It’s important for students that we acknowledge their culture and what they bring to the classroom. It’s vital to keep their roots and culture and language alive because it enriches other cultures as well,” says bilingual third grade teacher Maria Taveras.
To celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month the teachers have their students work with their families to put together posters showcasing their home country with information including famous people and places, favorite foods, music, sports, and more.
“It’s a way to motivate students in a very positive way,” says Azar. “And it’s a project we all look forward to,” adds Taveras.
“At the beginning of the year, when we have an open house we explain to parents that Hispanic Heritage Month is coming and we want them to help their child share their culture—whatever they want to share with us, a favorite food, the language, what they miss about their country, an important person from their country,” says Azar. “Each poster is totally different and very creative. It’s a nice project for parents and kids to do at home together.”
“It’s something students enjoy because it’s a family project,” says Taveras. “They have to ask their parents about the culture, about an important person from their culture.”
After completing their posters students present to the rest of the class. They talk about their country and explain things like how to make a favorite dish.
“I’ll ask them how to make a food they’ve chosen to include. Sometimes they don’t know all the steps and other students jump in and help,” says Taveras.
Azar adds, “Even though some students are from the same country, they all have something very different to share.”
The teachers say that National Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect opportunity to showcase and celebrate the diversity of Latin America, and the poster project does just that.