Upper School Spanish Students Connect Language and Culture

Christopher Barker’s Spanish students didn’t leave St. Louis but found themselves navigating an unfamiliar city in their very familiar hometown. On Tuesday, Christopher Barker, Upper School World Language Teacher, took his students to Cherokee Street in St. Louis to visit a part of the city that is historically significant and has become a hub of the Latino community. Ana Chu ’24 explained that Our current unit in Spanish is ‘en la ciudad’ (in the city). Our field trip allowed us to get a better hands-on understanding of Latino culture. Our teacher gave us a list of things to look out for and document, which included art, cuisine, infrastructure, and more.” The trip served as a foundation for the lessons students will soon be studying. We’ve just started the cities unit in class, and this trip was sort of an introduction which we will refer back to as we get further into the material,” said Sarah Wallace ’25.

Students’ observations from the trip can be compared to similar initiatives and challenges that other international cities are facing. “The field trip to Cherokee Street gave students an opportunity to see the ‘urban ballet’ that takes place each day in a commercial district, while at the same time offering some unique opportunities to consider how some city challenges can be remedied,” said Barker. 

Arjun Puri ’25 explained how the classroom material dovetailed with the real-world experience he found on Cherokee Street. “Going on the field trip enabled us to utilize some of the new vocabulary we have learned in a real-life context to describe what we were seeing and doing. I think it was a great opportunity to practice both the material we are studying in class as well as our speaking skills.”

The real-world experience was invaluable for students. “It is also great practice to be able to speak the language outside of the classroom, as many of us found an opportunity to do,” said Joe Intagliata ’25. Ana Chu had a similar experience. “In many of the stores I visited,” she shared, “the shop owners spoke mostly Spanish, which provided me with an immersive experience into the city life of Latino culture. Being able to physically visit a form of urban life helped me to learn more than if I was just being taught about it in a classroom. I saw commonalities between stores that were different from the stores around me that I am more familiar with.” 

Students had the freedom to explore the street on their own. For the most part, they chose where to eat and what shops to step into. “Arguably most importantly, students got to have a firsthand experience in a part of the city they may not be familiar with, and also hear from people who they wouldn’t regularly interact with,” Barker said. “The goal in our class is always to immerse ourselves in the Spanish language and Hispanic culture,” explains Sara. “This trip gave us the opportunity to meet with and talk to some Hispanic business owners. I conversed in Spanish with a few people in the bakery we visited, which was fun because I got to practice speaking outside the classroom and also feel more connected with Hispanic culture.”

¡Bien hecho, Rams!