Throughout the course of the 2018 – 2019 school year, St. Anne's-Belfield School fourth grade students will be taking part in the Smithsonian Institute's Bridging the Americas/Unidos por las Aves program and have been paired with a school in Colombia. Grades K – 4 Spanish teacher Erica Roth and Grades K – 4 science teacher Kayla Carter are facilitating the exchange.
The Smithsonian's program is open to Grades 2 – 4 classes in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. and pairs each class with contemporaries in Latin America. Together the paired classes learn and exchange information about the migratory birds that travel to Latin America in the winter and return to the United States of America each spring. Students also learn about the customs, traditions, and beliefs of the people who live in the region to which the birds travel. In order to share information, the students send each other letters, artwork, photos, and even communicate via video call if available.
"This program has provided a truly interdisciplinary experience for our fourth graders," said Roth. "The Spanish and science curricula have connected with the identity work being done in the homerooms, and students are working in art class with Mr. Russell to create drawings of their migratory birds. The connections being made across subject areas has been incredibly meaningful for both teachers and students. The unit has served as a vehicle to move the Spanish curriculum outside the classroom walls."
Grade 4 students have already drafted letters to send to their partner classes, and would like to know more about the Colombian students' lives at school, at home, and hopes for the future. School students also included information on their study of migratory birds in science class in the packet being sent to Colombia.
"We have been learning a lot about the problems that the birds face, and we worry about their safety," the students in Mrs. Miller's class wrote. "We have created a plan to help the birds here, and are creating bird houses and planting spice bushes. We are excited to paint the bird houses and hang them around our school! It is starting to get cold here and we have noticed the birds are beginning their journey to you. What kind of things are you doing to help the birds while they are with you?"
Students also included "Yo soy" pictures in their package, which introduce each of them to their new partners. The classes will receive answers to their questions and more information from Colombia in the spring.