As an international student at Oglethorpe, I felt it important to make the absolute most of my experience here in Atlanta, which is why I choose to volunteer at PATH Academy. I tried to make it to the DeKalb County charter school every week to help out in a 5th grade classroom with language arts teacher Ms. McCombs.
As I was talking to the students about college life and the different languages I was learning, it struck me that every single child in the class spoke or understood at least two languages already. We discussed the great advantage of this and how they would be able to benefit from it in their future. I asked them in how many languages they were able to say “hello” and I was surprised to see how many students were eager to show off their knowledge on the white board. I watched as a number of students came up and wrote words from “Bonjour” to “Ni Hao” to “Hola.” I then told them about Belgium, my homeland, and they asked me to teach them French words.
Their excitement was really heartwarming. One thing was for sure: the interest in foreign languages was definitely there! I thought that as their brains were already accustomed to constantly switching from one language to the other, why not use that skill as much as possible?
I told my story to Peyton Healy in the Oglethorpe Center for Civic Engagement, who coordinates all volunteer placements at “OUr partner school,” and she offered to help me to set up an International Languages Fair to get the students even more interested in foreign languages. I recruited a group of both international and American OU students and was thrilled to see how many were happy to help.
At the Academy, we set up five different stations, each representing a different country. France, Spain, Germany, Turkey and China were all represented by two Oglethorpe students of different origins.
The 32 PATH Academy students were each handed makeshift passports at the beginning of the fair, indicating the order in which they would be “flying” to the different countries. As they traveled along the five different stations, their passports were stamped and they learned interesting facts about the respective countries, as well as a few basic words in all the languages. Various activities were organized for the small groups as they rotated from station to station. For example, in Germany, students made Christmas stockings out of brown paper bags. For Spain’s station, they were taught basic flamenco moves and in China, they learned to draw Chinese characters.
They spent 10 minutes at each station and we’d ask them questions about what they had learned about the country. The first students to answer correctly got to place their name in a raffle box. At the end of the fair, five lucky students received great prizes related to the various countries.
Thanks to the great work by the Center for Civic Engagement staff as well as both international and American Oglethorpe student involvement, the languages fair was a great success and the team of teachers at PATH academy all were very pleased. More importantly, the kids really enjoyed it and loved interacting with college students from different cultural backgrounds.
Attention Oglethorpe students: Are you interested in volunteering at the PATH Academy? Learn more at an orientation and information session this Wednesday, January 25, 12 noon – 1:30 p.m. in the Center for Civic Engagement. Contact Peyton Healy at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.