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CONNECTING STUDENTS THROUGH LANGUAGE, DANCE
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (MARCH 23, 2022) – In the Gaudet Middle School gymnasium one recent afternoon, the call was “Uno, dos, tres, clap. Again! Again!”
Instructor Julian Hidalgo had more than 40 eighth graders on their feet, learning the smooth steps to the bachata, a style of dance that originated out of the Dominican Republic now enjoyed across the globe.
While the lesson was anything but a “normal” day for students in the Spanish program, educators said that was exactly the point — to create a lasting bond between what they’re learning in the classroom and the world beyond the walls of the Aquidneck Avenue middle school.
“Last year was really, really tough for a lot of teachers and students (due to restrictions from COVID-19) and I know so many of us are thrilled to be bringing back hands on lessons like this,” Spanish teacher Christine Karoly said, who helped organize the event with fellow Spanish teacher Michael Goodreau.
“If you look around, this is exactly the kind of thing they’ll remember and it provides for them a first-hand experience with diverse cultures, music, customs and so much more. In my experience, students want those kind of hands on lessons and learn from them in dynamic and creative ways.”
“It’s important to try to make school fun for them,” Goodreau added. “They’re learning here now and it’s opening them up at an age that can be very difficult. To see their smiles, that’s what makes this work for everyone.”
Going back about a month, Hidalgo started teaching about 90 Gaudet students about Latin culture, music and dance during multiple sessions from the gym and cafeteria. Before the arrival of COVID-19, he led similar lessons at Gaudet going back to 2018.
This year’s visits were paid for by the Gaudet Parent Teacher Group, the school and donations from students themselves.
Eighth graders Broden Faerber, Loganne McKenna, Mary Ellen Williams and Ryan Walsh agreed they liked “hands on” learning more than a typical lecture.
“It was enjoyable and not what we do a lot of the time,” Ryan said. “I like it when we do something different."
“When you do something like this, it’s a lot easier to see and feel the culture and language,” Loganne said. “This is how I learn best."
Broden said he tries to put his Spanish skills to the test whenever possible. Sometimes, that might be ordering food from a market in downtown Newport to speaking with friends.
“I’ve definitely used it (Spanish) and I’m not great at it, but I’m learning and getting more comfortable with it,” Broden said.
“I speak it whenever I can,” Mary Ellen added. “It gives me more of a connection to the language and I definitely see using it when I get out of school.”
Throughout the lesson, Hidalgo switched things up. Whether it was the location of the dancers, who had to move their position every time he shouted “Rotate!” to the steps and expectations themselves.
At one point, he noted the musician Karlos Rosé pumping from the Bose portable speaker system was from Providence.
“If you look around the room, they’re all having fun and learning at the same time,” Hidalgo said. “Isn’t that what it’s all about?”
“We really appreciate the support from everyone who made this happen,” Karoly said. “The PTG really stepped up and we’re really lucky they’re so active and supportive. Our principal Mr. Niemeyer was also extremely helpful with organizing the event. We are grateful to all.”
Gaudet Principal William Niemeyer said Hidalgo’s lesson was just one example of all the great work happening in the Middletown school system.
“This is a great tradition that Gaudet has had over the years, and it was cancelled the last few because of COVID,” Niemeyer said. “We are starting to return to normal school operations. Things like seating in the cafeteria and COVID requirements have been relaxed, allowing us to better serve our students. Bringing back the dance lessons has been a big step in our return to normalcy, and it is great to get the kids moving, having fun, and most importantly learning in a dynamic way.”
Document Link: https://www.middletownri.com/D...