Getting to know you

By Mary Hood
Fairhope Courier Intern
Posted 6/18/07

FAIRHOPE — The Eastern Shore Art Center brought two worlds together through art, song and dance in its Spanish immersion program last week.

Nancy Raia and Carol Skidmore stood at the forefront of this program almost a year ago before bringing …

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Getting to know you


FAIRHOPE — The Eastern Shore Art Center brought two worlds together through art, song and dance in its Spanish immersion program last week.

Nancy Raia and Carol Skidmore stood at the forefront of this program almost a year ago before bringing it to fruition.

Skidmore, Fairhope High School Spanish teacher, said it all began last August at the fine arts museum in Mobile where they had a similar program, which brought Hispanic and American children together. She was with Maria Papp, a local artist, when they saw the program, and she said the light bulb went off in their heads.

“On our way home, we talked and we said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have (a program like that) in Fairhope?” Skidmore said.

From then on the wheels kept turning, and the idea gained strength. At first, Skidmore said they were going to hold the program at the library but then got involved with the Eastern Shore Art Center.

Skidmore said she went to see Nancy Raia, ABC director at the ESAC, because the children’s program would coincide with the Art Center’s Latin theme for July.

“They asked me to cultivate the children for a show in the next room,” Raia said.

Raia said she prepared for this program by going to ESL classes at Daphne Elementary East. She brought in books that were half-Spanish, half-English to help the Hispanic children understand the coinciding of the two worlds.

One book that does this is “The Upside Down Boy” that shows a young Hispanic’s confusion on being exposed to American culture.

Raia said she wanted to show that being and feeling different in the new culture is understandable and that those differences can even occur outside of racial differences.

“I told them I felt different because I was such a different artist from those at the Art Center so I drew myself upside down,” Raia said. “I was just trying to get them to express what it’s like living here and feeling a little bit different.”

Both Skidmore and Raia agree that a benefit of having this class is bringing together both cultures because the more understanding you have of different cultures, the more tolerant you are of them.

“The more you understand the culture, the less you fear them,” Raia said.

Especially with the increasing Hispanic population, it’s important that people understand that culture.

“When you go anywhere you’re seeing the Spanish language and the Spanish products more and more in the stores, so you know the population is increasing,” Raia said.

The program, which ran Wednesday through Friday, June 15, from 9 a.m to noon, was attended by 14 children who ranged in age from 6 to 12.

Raia said each day began with the children learning how to greet each other in Spanish and how to say each other’s names as they arrived for class. She said Skidmore would then take over in teaching the children the Spanish words for colors, animals and more.

Skidmore pulled from her years of teaching high school Spanish by teaching through songs and movement. She taught the children how to greet each other by a song. Skidmore said she thinks learning through a creative and fun way is the best way to learn.

One goal of the program, Skidmore said, is to diminish stereotypes of Spanish, Mexican and other Hispanic nationalities, and teach the children that these are different peoples that can’t just be lumped into one. She gave the example of thinking that all English speakers are American, when you have British, Australian and Irish — to name a few — folks who also are proficient in English.

“We wanted to completely obliterate that stereotype,” Skidmore said. “We want people to realize that Spanish is Spanish and Bolivian is Bolivian. We’re trying to stress that.”

Yesterday, the children got to experience a fiesta with a wide variety of Hispanic foods, ranging from Mexican to South American to Bolivian.

The children also participate in art and get a chance to express themselves through painting and drawing. Some pieces of art will also be displayed in the art display titled “My Two Worlds.”

“It’s showing through art that (will show them) we’re all so much alike and learning from each other and making it fun,” Skidmore said.

Raia said the children’s response to the program has been great and highly noticeable. She said the first day the children came in shy and seemed to segregate by race, but by the end of the day they were laughing and playing, and there were no differences between them at all. They were all just children playing.

“They learned to relax and enjoy each other and not know the differences,” Raia said.

Raia and Skidmore consider this year’s program to be a pilot. They plan on learning from this experience and to enhance the program for years to come. Skidmore said that even adults showed interest in this class, and she is considering possibly offering it to adults in the future.