Saving the Past for the Future, El Salvador Children Kidney Project

Rising Sun Middle School 8th Grade, Cecil County, Connie Kalista, Kimberly Dyar
September 2008

7th & 8th grade students are taking world cultures and foreign language classes.  The Salvadoran co-director of the Central American Relief Project (CARP), Francis Batarse, was visiting from El Salvador and came to speak to our students about his country’s history and culture, as well as the children at the Benjamin Bloom Children’s Hospital who are affected by kidney disease.  He and the American co-director, Ginger Powers, who also served as his translator, shared this information with an accompanying slideshow.  The foreign language teachers wanted the students to hear an authentic accent by a native speaker so this arrangement supported their curriculum in that way.  The program was recorded and made into a DVD so that students who were absent could fully experience the educational aspect of the project.

Best Practice 1:  What recognized community need was met by your project (e.g. health, education, environmental or public safety need)?  

We felt that it was important to teach our students about belonging to an international community since our students live in rural areas and do not tend to have broad travel and cultural experiences.  In terms of the need met, kidney disease is a health issue, and this project provided medications to help sick children, but there was also an equally strong educational aspect to it in terms of the curricular value of the project.
The school’s library media specialist traveled to El Salvador to work with CARP on a short-term basis in 2006.  She toured several schools, visited children in their homes, and spent time performing puppet shows with the children and encouraging them to individually select and use the puppets.  After the trip, she continued to develop her relationship with the directors of the project and participate in sponsoring a child through the program.  The 8th grade teachers wanted to revise the service-learning project to make it more meaningful. Being able to help other children with whom they communicated increased the project’s relevance to students much more than did a canned food drive project done formerly.  When Francis Batarse came to visit the U.S., she talked to the foreign language teachers about having the CARP co-director visit RSMS.  This project grew out of that collaboration.
The students helped the children of El Salvador who have kidney disease, their families, as well as the medical staff at Benjamin Book Children’s Hospital where these children undergo treatment in San Salvador.  The hospital has limited resources as well, and it is not unusual for them to run out of medications toward the end of their fiscal year, so the donation from our school has a direct impact on the health of these children as they await the opportunity for a kidney transplant.

Best Practice 2:  How was the project connected to school curriculum (e.g. what course outcomes were met and/or how did the project reinforce or enhance student academic learning)? 

The relevant Maryland State Department of Education’s Standards for Foreign Language are as follows:
Standard 1:3:
Present Information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics in the target language.
Communication: Presentational: Speaking and Writing
  • Make short presentations and write simple sentences on familiar topics regarding what they do, are doing, or plan to do.

Standard 2.1:
Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of another people’s way of life, and the relationship between their patterns of behavior, and the underlying beliefs and values that guide and shape their lives.
Describe and participate in school-based cultural activities such as games, songs, and holiday celebrations.
  • Expand knowledge of, and participate in, a wider variety of cultural activities in the school and community.

Standard 3.2:
Acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are available only through a language and its cultures.
A.    Connections: Added Perspectives
  • Demonstrate a greater understanding of various topics by examining them from the perspectives of other cultures where the language is spoken.

Standard 4.2:
Demonstrate an understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.
A.     Comparisons: Culture
  • Compare the perspectives, practices, and products of people in different cultures.

Standard 5.1:
Use the language both within and beyond the school setting.
Communities: Practical Applications
  • Use and extend their language proficiency and cultural knowledge through face-to-face encounters and/or the use of technology both within and beyond the school setting.
Standards 2.1 & 4.2 applied to all 8th grade students who attended Mr. Batarse’s PowerPoint presentation on his country’s geography, culture, and children’s health issues in a 70 minute class period.  All students met Standard 1.3 by writing get well cards in Spanish, combining original art and personal messages using a glossary of phrases and their meanings.  Standards 3.2 & 5.1 applied to the students enrolled in Spanish class who attended a second presentation about the history, architecture, holidays, and values of El Salvador, with an opportunity to ask questions.  Since Mr. Batarse spoke with a translator, Spanish students were able to hear an authentic accent and practice their receptive language skills.

Best Practice 3:  How did you reflect on your experience throughout the project? 

The America co-director came to our school to share the response of the children and adults at the hospital with a slide show featuring the children, families, and doctors receiving the cards and the donation for medications.  She discussed the impact our encouragement and donations had on them.  Follow up classroom discussions helped students reflect more deeply. 

Best Practice 4:  How did students take leadership roles and take responsibility for the success of the project? 

Students and staff participated in Hat Day.  Each student and staff member donated $1 dollar to wear a hat all day while in classes.  During lunches, SASS (Students Against Starting Smoking) sold lollipops.  We also placed collection boxes in cafeteria/office/classrooms.  We were able to raise $500.00 for the Central Relief Project.  Students wrote and decorated get well cards that were given to the children in the hospital, and watched the follow up slide show to see if their picture cards were featured in the hands of the children who are sick.  One of our student leaders presented the check to Ginger Powers, American CARP co-director at a grade level assembly.

Best Practice 5:  What community partners did you work with on this project (e.g. non-profits, civic organizations, business that provided donations, etc.)? 

We coordinated our efforts with the American branch of The Central American Relief Project, which is located in Frederick, Maryland, so we tied into our state community.  We also contacted Union Hospital in Elkton, Maryland and the Cecil County Health Department to request a local speaker to visit our school and share the impact of kidney disease on people in our local community; however, both groups said they did not have anyone they could recommend or send to our school.

Best Practice 6:  How did you prepare and plan ahead for the project?

All 8th grade teachers set aside class time to study kidney disease and its effects.  The media specialist created a commercial to air on our school TV program that featured an interview with the co-director and highlighted the plight of children with kidney disease in El Salvador.  The Spanish teacher prepared students to compare the distinctive features of an authentic accent to their own Spanish language skills and discussed it afterward.  She also provided instruction in the importance of the Quinceañera celebration in Hispanic cultures. 

Best Practice 7:  What knowledge and skills did students develop through this project? 

Our student population is 97% Caucasian, and, for most, their only personal interaction with Hispanic people is a passing view of a small number of migrant workers that are employed at the local mushroom farms and their children who attend our school and have very limited English skills.  Students deepened their understanding of the richness of Hispanic culture and people, as well as participated in an instructional situation with a highly educated, articulate Salvadoran role model.  They also developed compassion for their peers in another county, as well as writing about their gratitude for the quality of life they enjoy in the United States.  All of them practiced simple language skills in the cards they wrote to the children, which reinforced the Spanish students’ skills and exposed other 8th graders to a language they have the option of studying in high school.