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IDEAS Students Travel to Nicaragua to Learn, Serve
IDEAS Academy Spanish students spent nine days in Granada, Nicaragua as part of a  language immersion and service-learning experience. From June 15 to June 23, fifteen students and two teachers lived with host families, attended Spanish language classes at Ave Nicaraguita Spanish School, and volunteered to help local students with their studies in Spanish and English.

The trip was planned collaboratively by IDEAS students and staff, Ave Nicaraguita staff, and INTERACT travel agency over the course of two years. In the same two years, students participating in the trip studied the Spanish language as a catalyst for understanding the communication, culture, and environment specific to the region they visited.

Students chose to stay with host families for the opportunity to listen closely and practice Spanish in an immersive environment. Sophomore, Hannah Staats, shared a story about communicating with one of the young children in her host family, “It was usually difficult to understand what she was saying, because she was saying it so fast, but she was so animated - almost acting out what she meant as she was saying it.”

The more time students spent with their families, the more they were able to communicate. Many students reflected on how valuable the experience was, showing them how they could use the academic Spanish they already knew to adjust to local dialects, patterns, vocabulary, and contexts. Moreover, students valued the cultural aspects of the homestay. Miranda Kelm (grade 10) and Monica Heppard (grade 12) , learned to make traditional Nacatamal while cooking with their family.

Spanish language classes were created for groups of students at different levels, and the international staff at Ave Nicaraguita engaged IDEAS students in a range of learning experiences from the language of commerce to the cultural history of the city. Students visited one of the oldest cemeteries in Central America and hiked the rim of volcano, to gain not only new language contexts but also an understanding of how people in Granada came to live the way that they do today.  

When students learned of the poverty in Nicaragua, through their pre-trip studies, it was important to them to provide some service while learning and travelling. Students worked with three different schools while staying in Granada. Their first experience was a language exchange with English students at Ave Nicaraguita, where they facilitated dual-language gatherings and theater games used to build community at IDEAS Academy. Through this experience students learned the value of learning English for people in Nicaragua as well as the volunteer opportunities that foreign English speakers have in Central American schools.

At Carita Feliz, an urban elementary school, IDEAS students helped local teachers in classrooms from kindergarten to fifth grade. For example, Jacob Folz (grade 9) and Sophie Stone (grade 9) helped students in math, while Karyn Attipoe (grade 10) and Davina Boykin (grade 12) learned to dance salsa and, in exchange, taught African dance movements to the students. At Juan Pablo II, a rural elementary school, IDEAS students donated school supplies and shared in the visual arts as well as recreation with students.

The reflections students shared after the experience included many appreciations for moments of connecting and understanding with the families and children the met. There were also a number of new intentions that arose from the experiences, including Emily Reichgeld’s (grade 12) commitment to the study of urban planning in developing countries and Sarah Williams’ (grade 10) suggestion that people who are more open to new things tend to be more happy. As a whole, the group looks forward to sharing their experiences with the IDEAS community next year and hope create more cultural connections through their learning and the Sheboygan community.

IDEAS Academy is grateful to all those who supported this trip through sharing insights, attending the Étude Sessions and other fundraisers, and making individual donations. The collective effort makes it possible for any Spanish student to participate, regardless of financial means. The school hopes to continue to provide these opportunities.

Junior, Autumn Willard (front) and, sophomore, Lydia Waniorek (back), help students with English pronunciation, vocabulary, and constructions at Carita Feliz.

The IDEAS Academy students and teachers with students at Juan Pablo II outside of Granada, Nicaragua.

Sheboygan Area School District Press Release
July 2, 2015