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Lets Tell Stories...But In Spanish

  Micaela McGuckin, 11, bottom, and Bridget Courtois, 8, help Isabella McCormick, 8, put on articals of clothing during a relay race at a Spanish immersion class Thursday at St. Claire of Asissi in Edwards. The children teacher would call out the name of an artical of clothing in Spanish and they would have to find it and put it on.
Bret Hartman/Vail Daily


Veronica Whitney
August 8, 2004

"Pantalon verde ... does that mean green pant?" asked 11-year-old Lauren Kern before rushing to a pile of clothes and picking out the pants.

Lauren put the pants on -she already was wearing a ski hat and gloves - ran back and passed the clothes to 10-year-old Isabelle Courtois, who was waiting in line. The relay race involved picking from a hat the name of an article of clothing in Spanish and then running to the pile of clothing to get it.

"It's easy to learn this way because you do fun things," said Kern, who, with another 25 kids, took part last week in the second Spanish immersion camp at St. Clare of Assisi, a Catholic school in Edwards.

While this group took part in the relay race, other of campers were at other activities. In another section of the school gym, where the camp mostly took place, Sebastian Melgarejo, an Argentinean psychologist who also teaches Spanish at Colorado Mountain College, asked the kids what they want to be when they grow up.

"I want to be a zoological architect," said Ryan Vlaar, 13, of Eagle-Vail. "And an actor."

"I want to be a rock star because I like to sing," said Tessa Vlaar, 10.

Melgarejo wrote down all those professions in Spanish on a big pad of paper so everybody could see it and learn how the words are spelled.

"The more physical and involved they are, the more they learn," said Jeff Hayslip, the camp director and a Spanish and physical education teacher at St. Clare of Assisi.

"We do the camp in August to prepare the kids for the next school year," added Hayslip, who was in Minnesota at a 10-day program for language teachers before St. Clare's camp started on Aug. 2.

This was the second year of the one-week long camp, which aims at improving children's knowledge of Spanish and expanding their vocabulary using games, art activities and storytelling.

During the camp, the children also learned about of South American culture, taught by the camp counselors, which, in addition to Melgarejo, included Martin Iribarne of Argentina and Maria Jose Machuca of Chile.

"It's important to me that they not only learn Spanish, but have an understanding of the global community," said Hayslip, who years ago left a job on Wall Street and moved to Argentina for two years.

In just a week at the camp, Hayslip said the children not only expanded their Spanish vocabulary but became more interested in learning about other cultures.

"I know what these kids know when they come to the camp," he said. "And you can't believe how much they learn. If you go to an immersion school, you can learn a language. But during the school year, I only have these kids for an hour-and-a-half a week."

Kevin Gillie, 9, of Edwards, said playing soccer in the afternoons was one of his favorite parts of the camp.

"I'm the best arquero," he said, using the Spanish word for goalie while putting on a red dress during the clothing relay race.

Although the program was open to all children - one week cost $160 - Hayslip said this year they only had children whose first language is English.

"Next year, we'd like to expand the camp to other schools in the valley," Hayslip said.

 Staff writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or Whitney reports for the Vail Daily, based in Vail, Colorado.