Cultural Exploration through World Languages

Heather Paff
At Harbor Day the world language teachers take a holistic approach to teaching language. We are dedicated to having the students learn not only the grammar and syntax of our languages, but also exposing students to the different cultures of our target languages. By learning about different cultures, HDS students learn to appreciate cultural differences and become better citizens of the world. Our students learn about culture through hands-on experiences whether it is creating or recreating an experience, or learning something new by going on a field trip.
When our Mandarin students learned about the Lunar New Year celebrations in China, the eighth-grade students made dumplings in the faculty kitchen. They watched Mrs. Wang mix and knead the dough and helped her fill the dumplings with a mixture of meat and spices. Yum! Fifth grade students celebrated with food, boba tea, and a dragon dance, complete with a dragon’s head, which students made using brightly colored duct tape. 
Earlier in the year, seventh-grade Latin students learned all about Roman weddings by putting on a mock wedding of their own. Dressed in togas or stola and ivy wreaths on their heads, students spoke in Latin. They reenacted the various parts of a Roman wedding from the sponsalia, the betrothal, to the deductio, the procession to the bride’s new home. Through this process, students realized that many western wedding traditions are rooted in ancient Roman culture, such as the tossing of the bouquet and carrying the bride over the threshold.
In October, Spanish students learned about Dias de Los Muertos by creating ofrenda to remember loved ones or decorating a candy skull. The colorful tributes were displayed in the Open Space. Additionally, seventh-grade students learned about this cultural celebration through a field trip to the Museum of Latin American Art, which had a special exhibition De Generación a Generación: A Subconscious Lineage
By having these rich experiences in middle school, HDS students are sure to have long-lasting and positive memories of these cultural experiences. As they go through high school and beyond, we hope that they will continue to seek out knowledge of different cultures and become citizens of the world. 

About the Author:

Latin teacher Ms. Heather Paff started at Harbor Day School in 2018 after spending eight years teaching Latin and Greek to middle and high-school students in Arizona. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of California, Santa Barbara with her Bachelor of Arts in Classical Archaeology and she received her Master of Arts in Classics (Greek and Latin) from Florida State University. Ms. Paff loves to hike (she’s hiked the Grand Canyon to the river and back in nine hours!), cuddle with her two cats, and crochet.

Harbor Day School

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Harbor Day School is a co-educational private independent K-8 school established in 1952.