After returning home from our vacation in Puerto Rico, I was ready to find avenues in our community other than home, school and camp in which my daughter could use her Spanish.
For one reason, it is important to be exposed to a language in multiple environments. Repetitive use of the language in different contexts and environments validates the importance of the language and enriches the connections and associations made in that language.
Secondly, it is important for language learners to hear a variety of accents and expressions to better differentiate words and phrases and to better communicate with speakers from various backgrounds.
So, while perusing the website of the Blanton Museum of Art to find out more about their summer children’s programs, I was delighted to come across their information on school field trips available also in Spanish.
I immediately contacted the Blanton Museum of Art to learn more. I then organized a group of friends whose children are close to my daughter in age and who are also bilingual (many of whom also attend the same Spanish school as my daughter). Within a week, I had several families with at least 10 bilingual kids signed up for a Spanish field trip at the Blanton. Organizing the field trip with the Blanton Museum of Art was easy. The staff was friendly and very responsive. I simply completed a form that they sent to me via email. A week before our field trip, the docent for the Spanish program, Adela Etcharren, called me to go over the details.
A docent who has worked with children’s art programs for over 20 years, Ms. Adela Etcharren is both knowledgeable and very conscientious. She tailored the program around a desired theme while also teaching the children about the different techniques and media in art in an age appropriate format. I was truly impressed with the art works she chose and how she effortlessly mixed story telling, art techniques and history together while also keeping the children engaged. Not only did the children learn a great deal, but so did the parents who also spoke Spanish. Yet, the true testament for me was hearing from my daughter about how much she truly enjoyed the experience. I am so glad that new discoveries and experiences can be shared within our community that not only enrich our lives but also foster bilingualism.
Ideas for other Spanish Bilingual Field Trips in the Austin Area:
After having such a wonderful experience with the Blanton Museum of Art, I began looking into other bilingual options and here are the findings.
The Fish Gallery: After recently attending a field trip in English with my daughter at the Fish Gallery, I learned that the Fish Gallery also offers these same programs for kids in Spanish! They have knowledgeable and friendly staff who teach children of various ages about different aquatic life.
The Thinkery: The Thinkery, our very own children’s tinkering science museum, has their exhibits noted in both English and Spanish and also offers bilingual tours in Spanish for school groups upon request. However, due to the limited number of designated bilingual staff available, you will want to plan your trip at least 30 days in advance to ensure that you get a bilingual staff member on your tour.
Ballet Austin: The Nutcracker Docent Program is available in English and Spanish for Elementary age students. The program is a 45 minute educational program that teaches elementary age children about the history, attire and performances of ballet. This program works in concert with the attendance of one of the Nutcracker School shows. A minimum of 10 students must attend both, with the Nutcracker Docent Program preceding the Nutcracker School show by one or more days.
Hill Country Science Mill: The Hill Country Science Mill is an interactive science and technology museum just one hour outside Austin in Johnson City. Upon check-in, each person gets a card to activate their own personal avatar. In creating your personal avatar, you can also choose the language you wish your avatar to speak, English or Spanish. Your avatar then becomes your personal guide in which you or your child interacts with the exhibits. If you choose Spanish as your language, then you have your own virtual guide in Spanish.
The Public Library: Why not turn a visit to a library into a field trip? Many branches in Austin and in the surrounding areas have bilingual story times as well as story times only in Spanish. After enjoying a few bilingual stories, choose some bilingual books to read at home.
The City of Austin Cultural Centers and Museums: Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (ESB-MACC) is just one of the various cultural centers organized by the City of Austin. It offers a variety of Spanish bilingual and cultural programs for both adult and children throughout the year. The Asian American Resource Center and the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center are other cultural resource centers and museums supported by the city. Cultural festivals, performing and visual arts and live music performances from cultures around the world are all part of what these cultural center offer and are great experiences for the entire family. They also make wonderful multicultural field trips.
Austin Opera: Austin Opera is working on translating their current Treasure Chest Educational lesson plans into Spanish; a few lessons have already been completed. By next year, they will be offering more bilingual programs for children. Look for them to be providing more bilingual educational programs for elementary age students in the coming year.
Questions on finding and organizing field trips:
Who can organize a bilingual field trip?
Home school parents, parent groups, schools and camp programs—essentially any group of organized parents and/or educators can either organize their own bilingual field trips or work with their schools and educators to do so.
What if we don’t live in the Austin area? How do we get started searching for bilingual programs to organize our own field trips?
If you live in any major metropolitan area, chances are you will come across some programs that are also offered in another language. Spanish is the most widely spoken second language and will be more prevalent wherever you have a history and/or influx of Spanish speaking communities. On the other hand, if you live near the border of Quebec, you may find many programs also available in French. Begin your inquiry with local art museums and companies of performing arts. Also check with the various educational centers such as children’s museums and aquariums that offer educational programs in physical and natural science. Lastly, check with your local cultural centers to see what they may have available. Many cultural centers host special events throughout the calendar year. While they may be held in English, you will often hear music and other vocabulary in the second language as well as have an opportunity to experience and immerse yourself in a new and/or familiar culture.
Guidelines for planning a bilingual field trip:
Does the program provide educational insights and working knowledge on a subject matter for students?
Can the staff effectively communicate these insights and knowledge in the desired language?
Is the information presented age-level appropriate?
Is the amount of time allotted age-level appropriate?
Does the staff engage the students by asking them questions and giving them opportunity to comment in the desired language?
What other fun and educational excursions in Spanish await us in our own community? Going out to eat at a restaurant where Spanish is spoken is pretty common in Austin; but what about a tour of a restaurant where the process of running a restaurant is explained in Spanish? Join us in our search for bilingual field trips and let us know in the comments section of this blog your findings. Moreover, many other languages other than English and Spanish are spoken in our community. Please comment if you know of other possible field trips available in other languages such as in French, Mandarin, Hindi/Urdu and Portuguese.
Help us make bilingualism and multiculturalism an integral part of our education and community!