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Oberlin Schools hosts First World Language and Culture Festival April 24

OBERLIN: To celebrate world languages and cultures, Oberlin’s first World Language and Culture Festival will be held Friday, April 24, 2009, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Prospect Elementary School. The festival is sponsored by Oberlin’s Spanish in the Elementary Schools (SITES) program and the Parent-Teacher Organizations at Eastwood and Prospect schools.

“The festival is an intercultural educational event designed to engage the growing minds of our children and demonstrate the incredible cultural diversity that Oberlin offers,” says SITES director Kim Faber, Oberlin College instructor in Latino studies. Faber initiated SITES in September 2005.

“The festival is free and open to the public, but children K-5 and their families will especially enjoy the activities,” Faber points out. 

Festival goers will encounter a variety of community members and College students dressed in traditional clothing from different countries, tables with music, instruments, and free samples of food and drink from around the world.

The program also will include performances by a number of Oberlin College student ensembles, among them the steel drum band O’Steel; the a capella Nothing But Treble; and Capoeira and Japanese Taiko drumming groups led by Oberlin faculty members.

“Since all elementary-school students receive Spanish classes through SITES, the children themselves will be playing an active role in the festival. Many will have the chance to showcase the international work they do through SITES or the Oberlin schools’ IB (International Baccalaureate) program,” says Faber.

“Oberlin’s middle and high school Spanish programs will also be presenting projects they have created. There will be crafts and other hands-on activities allowing elementary-school children to explore the world.”

 “Thanks to the unprecedented amount of face time between SITES instructors and elementary-school students, both are learning by leaps and bounds,” Faber adds. “This world language and culture festival is the first of what we hope will become an annual celebration of our town and college commitment to international education.”

Oberlin College students enrolled in Faber’s Spanish Teaching Practicum currently teach Spanish to children in 26 classrooms in the city’s two elementary schools, making Oberlin one of the few school districts in Ohio to offer a world language program in grades K-5.

Faber’s training in linguistics, admitted passion for bilingual education, and her desire for children to learn a second language at an early age, which she shares with a number of other Oberlin parents, impelled her to develop SITES. In its first year, 16 Oberlin College student volunteers offered instruction to children in kindergarten and third grade classrooms.

So positive was the response of parents and children to the program that it spurred the Oberlin City School district to offer foreign language from kindergarten through 12th grade. SITES also became a major player in the system’s decision to adopt the IB program in 2008. 

This year, more than 50 College students and two community members are providing Spanish language instruction twice a week for 30 minutes for grades K-5 at both Eastwood and Prospect schools.  As a result, by the end of the school year a total of 486 Oberlin children will have been introduced to a world language; without SITES they would not have had this opportunity until middle or high school.

SITES’ mission is twofold. “On the one hand SITES aims to raise awareness and encourage open mindedness regarding language and culture; on the other hand, it offers Oberlin College students a unique opportunity to use their skills and work in the community while supporting world-language education in Oberlin's public schools.

“Oberlin students choose to participate for a variety of reasons. Some hope to integrate their Spanish into various career goals. Others want to explore teaching to see if it is for them,” said Faber.

“It definitely allows those students who want to go into education to gain first-hand experience in the classroom. It also inspires students who had not previously thought of becoming a teacher to consider a teaching career,” said Faber.






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