#1StudentNWI: New Prairie High School’s World Language Club breaks barriers between students and the community

#1StudentNWI: New Prairie High School’s World Language Club breaks barriers between students and the community

On March 2, 2021 New Prairie High School’s World Language Club made their own custom maracas. World Language Club, a group where students learn about the different cultural aspects of Spanish-speaking countries, was created by Angela Ruiz and Christy Pietrzak in their first few years of teaching.

“Señora Pietrzak and I started the club my first year teaching at New Prairie,” Ruiz said. “We wanted all students, not just those taking a Spanish class, to experience the fun the culture brings to our world. The world is very big and there are wonderful things to learn about different cultures. It began as Spanish Club, and this year, we changed it to be more inclusive with its new name, ‘The World Language Club.’”

Since then, many students have joined the club and loved the different activities that the club has to offer. 

There are many students that attend every meeting and get to experience all the fun, from making food, to learning how to work the tortilla press, to making the maracas, to creating artistic masks for the Day of the Dead celebration, and much more. But, there are other students that only attend one or two meetings, and they still get to enjoy what the club has to offer use the language in the community.

“They are happy to say, ‘Señora Ruiz, I helped a customer who only spoke Spanish order a pizza,’ or, ‘Señora. Ruiz, I told my customers they needed to grab a cart for shopping in Spanish.’ When a student learns that communication breaks barriers and opens doors, I know they have learned a big lesson that even some adults have not learned yet. They are wise beyond their years,” said Ruiz.

Ruiz and Pietrzak, the directors of the club, were excited to create maracas with their students.  

“The maracas are a personal favorite of mine because they are said to be the invention of the indigenous Taino people of Puerto Rico, and I am a proud Puerto Rican. My grandparents were born on the island of Puerto Rico in Utuado, near Arecibo,” Ruiz said.

The Tainos made the maracas out of higuera wood and filled them with fruit to make the sounds we hear when we shake the maraca. While the students don't have these items on stand-by, Ruiz and Pietrzak use things they can find at a local grocery store to make the maracas. 

To make these maracas, students took an Easter egg and filled it with beans. Then they took two plastic spoons and put tape around each side to be used as the handle. Finally the students customize their maracas with different colors of duct tape to give them their own maraca to take home. 

The next project on April 20 is to make authentic dishes, which is open for any of the students to come in and join.

“The next activity planned is to make empanadas and salsa. We will also have chips and talk about how to make those as well. To drink, students can sample agua de horchata, a sweet drink made from rice water,” Ruiz said. “Last year, students who made empanadas with me loved it. I think they will love it again. So far, we were holding off on the cooking fun, but it looks like I might be able to do these activities near the end of the year.”

Since going back to school in-person one-hundred percent of the time, many more people have joined the club than at beginning of the year when New Prairie was on a hybrid schedule. This has given Ruiz and Pietrzak more time to arrange all the students together and has given them more ideas to do as a whole.

“I would love to take my students to the Mexican Fine Arts Museum in Chicago near Pilsen,” Ruiz said. “I would also love to be able to go to Don Quijote in Downtown Valparaiso with them – fingers crossed when we are able to travel again.”

Seeing how the number of students has started to increase, this has led to many people wanting more from the World Language Club.

“I would love to have World Language Club more than once a month, especially when we get back to one-hundred percent in-person attendance,” Ruiz said.

Even though one-hundred percent attendance has been great for the club, New Prairie High School has decided to go to one-hundred percent e-learning. This won’t stop the club from doing more fun and exciting things in the future at New Prairie High School, though!