Spanish, Social Studies departments prepare for trips

January 26, 2010 — by David Eng and Aanchal Mohan

At least 77 students will be out of state during the approaching ski week and the much awaited spring break, and 52 of them will be Spanish 2, 3, 4, and 5 students visiting Cuernavaca, Mexico, as part of the Spanish department’s annual 10-day trip there. The other 25 students out on school business will be roaming the canyons of a national park in Monticello, Utah, as part of teacher Matt Torrens’ “Wild West” trip.

Cuernavaca, located just south of Mexico City in the southern region of the country, is widely regarded as a perfect place to study Spanish because of its display of culture and the university located in the heart of the city. Spanish teacher Arnaldo Rodriguex certainly agrees. It will be what he estimates to be the department’s 30th annual trip, and they plan to keep on going.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn about Mexican customs,” he said. “Spanish is all around them. They are in the country and everything they see around them represents the culture.”

Some of his students, like senior Jamie Gee, enjoyed last year’s trip to Cuernavaca so much that they are going for the second consecutive year. “I really enjoyed the time there and the things I saw,” said Gee. “The food was a pretty big part for me and I like the art a lot.”

It is not all fun and games on the trip, though. His students will not be staying in a luxury hotel, but will get a more integrated experience, as they stay with a typical Mexican household and virtually become a member of a Spanish-speaking family for a week. Since Saratoga has been going to Cuernnavaca for so many years that the school specifically requestes certain host families that previous students have stayed with before.

The students will also be attending a regular Spanish school. They will be split up by language proficiency level determined via placement test and ultimately be divided into classes of about five students, in which they will learn how to read write and speak Spanish more fluently.

Despite the cost of the trip, $1,620, Gee can attest to the fact that such a program helps develops Spanish-speaking skills. “When I was there last year, I was interacting all the time. In fact, coming back was kind of hard because English actually sounded ugly. The accents between the two languages were not the same, so English just sounded really bad for a few weeks,” she said.

However, Rodriguex will not be the only teacher taking his students on a foreign excursion. History teacher Matt Torrens and 25 of his and Kim Anzelonie’s AP US History students will be in Utah when February break rolls around.

They will be visiting cities Moab and Monticello in the southeastern region of the state. In addition to going biking in the biking capital of the world in Moab and hiking in Canyonlands National Park with numerous 2000-feet-deep canyons in Monticello, the group will be visiting about two dozen history sights.

“We’re going to visit about two dozen history sights. There are dinosaur tracks, Indian pictograms, Japanese relocation camps, and even the wing of a crash-landed B52 plane. We’re just going to do a ton of history stuff,” said Torrens.

This will be his third visit to the Great Salt Lake state on what Torrens now labels a “Wild Wild West Fieldtrip.” He continues to sponsor the trip because of the educational aspect. “It allows me to teach history outside of the classroom. I can relate a lot of things that we talk about in the classroom to artifacts that I can actually show them,” said Torrens.

Rodriguex had similar input regarding the benefits of teaching students outside of the classroom.

“It’s important for the students to feel that what they are learning at Saratoga pays off and that they can actually use it in the real world,” said Rodriguex.

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