CHS Spanish Club Helps Rural Students In Costa Rica

Thursday March 19, 2009 On March 12, 2009, seven boxes of used children’s books were sent to a library in Costa Rica.

At Canton Junior-Senior High School, Mrs. Amy Martell’s Spanish classes have been corresponding with Josh Kagan, a Peace Corps volunteer, during this school year. Josh has written about the culture, climate, life, and needs of the students and families in his rural village in Costa Rica.

Students have learned the following: what a typical day is like near San Isidro, what it is like during the rainy season when a house almost fell into the river, that kids had never played Frisbee or Baseball before Josh got there, how they were using donated materials, and when they held a sports camp.

Josh and CHS classes have been corresponding through a program called Worldwise schools. This program enables local classes to virtually “travel” to other countries to learn about cultural differences and similarities. This two-year exchange enables U.S. students to learn about cultures with the letters and emails from Peace Corps Volunteers living in those countries. Students see pictures, learn geography, explore environmental differences, and expand their knowledge of distant places.

In the past few years, classes have written to volunteers in South America, but this year they have been paired with Costa Rica. Josh, who worked as a public defender for sixteen months after becoming a lawyer, decided to join the Peace Corps and enhance his language skills and entrepreneurial and micro-business experiences. Nina Wilcox said, “It is very interesting to learn about different cultures and experiences.”

Brittney Lupold was surprised that women who attended a fitness group, started by Josh, did not have sneakers to exercise in. “It is interesting to see how different things are. We go to a big gym to work out with all the high tech equipment while those women didn’t have shoes to work out in.” Josh wrote that he collected donated sneakers while home for vacations in December. Students have been learning much about the differences between city and rural life in Costa Rica. The comparisons are quite distinct.

Currently, Josh teaches a high school business course in the local high school as well as English classes that focus on conversation and pronunciation. He is working to teach the teachers to embed programs that will enable the villagers to continue these classes when his two-year term is over. He wants to start a story hour, book club, and reading group in the town for different reading levels. The goal would be to encourage reading. Now, he tells students, nobody reads for fun. It is impossible to read when there are no books to be read. The only library is in the elementary school, and they only have ten books that can be checked out. Most of those books are thirty years old and have been read by the 250 people in the town.

Mrs. Martell’s students decided to donate their books to the Costa Rican library in hopes that more students could read these books.

Mrs. Martell has been ordering $1.00 books through Scholastic since 1996. Each year in a class set of thirty there would be five to ten left over or unclaimed books. This year her students decided that instead of taking one of the books for themselves they would rather send their ‘used’ books to the village that they had been corresponding to, and and that is how the book donation idea was born. Jessy Lepper commented, “It was suprising to me to find out that they didn’t have many books to read and what they had was mostly children’s picture books.”

The book closet was opened, and the book drive began! “After filling three boxes, the students were energized,” claimed Amy Martell, “These students will learn to be global citizens by giving back to Costa Rican students who they have never met.”

In the collection, there were several versions of the Escaliofrios (Goosebumps) books that students have read through the years as well as several Junie B. Jones books (en Español). Spanish student Coleen Cole stated, “I am glad to help send books to Costa Rica so others can use them to learn to read.”

Becca McMurray added, “It feels great to be doing something for people living in another country, and reading is important in every country.” Saxie Ragan commented, “It is great to be a part of this.” Jenelle Segur commented, “It makes me feel greatful that we can easily get books if we want them.”

The classes are excited to get word that the boxes have arrived and find out if the Costa Rican students like them. “I am sure this will open up the door for pen pals as my students can’t wait to find out which books they read and what they thought about them,” stated Amy Martell. “My students grew up reading Junie B. Jones and Goosebumps; they can’t wait for other students to read some of their childhood favorites.”

If you would like to order Spanish books you may visit the online site: class user name: amartell password: spanish
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