29 July 2016

GUEST POST: The W.A.Y.: Start an after-school club

Each week of the ASU Summer Institute 2016, I have featured ideas from amigos I met through Summer Institute in years past. This week, Linda Carrillo helps answer the question, "How do I start an after-school club focused on cultural exploration?"

I wanted to start a middle school club. My reasoning was twofold (not including being bored!) One, we needed another option for 6th graders--who are not allowed to participate i sports,--and for the 7th and 8th graders not involved in sports (or the other two whole clubs our school offers).

Two, I have a burning desire for our kids to know that there is more to the world than their little town (county, state, country)!

I teach at a combined middle/high school that serves 700 students in all 7 grades.  We are small! When I get the 6th graders for the first time in my 9-week, 30-minute-a-day exploratory Spanish class, the majority of them are very excited to learn some Spanish! We talk about music, schools, foods, traditions, and learn a bunch of vocabulary.

It’s good.

I also have the 7th graders for the same amount of time, and we learn different units and current events. I only have about 20% of 8th graders, but they have me for 90 minutes every other day for an entire semester, so we can dive in a little bit deeper. Because I still wanted to do more, I decided to bring in authentic resources in the form of people!

This club is called the W.A.Y., which stands for the World Around You.


We meet once a month after school (remember, these kids usually don’t have a ride home other than the bus) and focus on a different country each time. During our 90 minutes our guest speaker shares a powerpoint of pictures explaining the basics of the country:

  • Location
  • Population
  • Language
  • Education
  • Travel
  • Food
  • Holidays
  • Sports
  • and anything else they might find interesting

Sometimes history is mentioned, sometimes not; a lot is dependent on the speaker and who is in our audience for that day. We average about 10 kids each club, which is not many, and sometimes discouraging. But I have to remember that we are reaching these kids and possibly changing their lives…...and that’s what is important.


We also learn some vocabulary and phrases that we practice speaking. Sometimes we learn songs and dances. It varies based on what the presenter would like to share.


After (or sometimes during) the exchange of information and questions and answers, we eat a typical food from that country. Sometimes, we prepare it on the spot;, other times, I’ll make it the night before and we just hand it out and eat. Everyone is encourage to try it, and most will. Sometimes we run out, but other times, we have plenty of leftovers!!


We end our time by doing a craft that is representative of the country we’re talking about. This is a good way to get the kids involved with hands on activities, talking with each other and our guest about what has been shared so far and about traditions.


I thought recruiting guest speakers would be really hard, but it has been surprisingly workable, even in our small community! All I ask of guest speakers  is that they either prepare a short powerpoint presentation or send me pictures and info and I’ll put it together (thankfully, I haven’t had to do that yet, but I do offer).  It’s finding them that I expected to be impossible!

As a disclaimer; I am not from North Carolina and do not know a lot of people outside of school. Every day I am still finding out that person X is related to person Y and that I had NO IDEA!! So you do not need to know a lot of people who are from other countries or who have lived in other countries. But you do need to let your ideas be known within your circle and sit back and watch! Here’s how it happened with me.

First, we had 2 exchange students in our school last year, so those were an easy 2 months to fill. Germany and Russia, check. However, I did not even know they were in our school until November, (how is that possible in such a small school? right?) So I started with a missionary family that one of our teachers’ church sponsors. They just happened to be home on furlough, so Bolivia was our first country! Our speaker was one of the daughters and she brought a friend with her who had just recently graduated from our school and had spent a month in Bolivia with them.

Next month was our exchange student from Germany.

Then I had one of our moms speak about China because she traveled there periodically to work on a business with other students there (I heard about her travels when her children had taken my class, and my child was in band with them). Is she Chinese? No. Does she live in China? No. But she’s an awesome speaker and very organized, so she was able to relate to our students quite well.

Next I asked one of our substitute teachers who had been a missionary in Africa for 30 years to speak and he and his wife graciously agreed.

A french teacher from our neighboring HS came the next month to share her experiences in France.

During the second year of the club we had the following guest speakers:
  • our art teacher who lived in Australia as an exchange student during her senior year in high school
  • another art teacher’s parents who are missionaries in Taiwan who traveled there a few different times with his high school aged children, spending a month each time
  • the mother of a student who moved into our school district in the middle of the year from Venezuela
  • another 2 exchange students from Spain and Brazil.

We were all set up to Skype with a friend of mine from Philadelphia who is originally from Argentina, but that fell through at the last moment, so we had to listen to me speak about my year in Mexico. While performing with our local orchestra, I was speaking with a pianist who lived in the Czech Republic for 12 years, so guess who came to speak that next month? She also performed for us as well which attracted some students who didn’t usually attend!

It is amazing to me that I have been able to find so many people with so much ‘foreign’ exposure! Word of mouth has helped tremendously.

Not long ago I was speaking to a person at the gym about my upcoming trip to Costa Rica, and I found out that he had spent a month there also, as well as having spent time in Afghanistan, Spain, and all the Carribbean islands. I’m hopeful that he’ll be a guest speaker next year!


I ask speakers for a typical food that’s easy to make and a typical craft. Some of my guests have prepared the food and crafts themselves, others have not and I have had to do so.

Also a grant for this club helped with  money to spend on food and crafts. Often I will have ‘regular’ snacks to feed the kids as they arrive, so they can focus a bit better in the beginning. Sometimes, cookies and juice, other times I’ll have pizza.  

It has been a struggle to get a lot of participation, so I announce the club at school, send home an all call to the entire school a few days before the club, and offer extra credit to those students who are currently in my class. The biggest challenge has been that the kids forget to get parental permission and our office won’t let them call home that day to arrange rides. I’m still working through getting more participation, so if you have any thoughts on that, they are welcome!


Contrary to what a lot of my students think, the countries we learn about are not all Spanish speaking places. Even though I teach Spanish, even I know that there is more to the world than the 21 Spanish speaking regions! I want them to experience everything about our world, and to see that while kids all go to school, some schools don’t have sports programs, and some start at 7:30 and end at 5:00, and some even go on Saturdays all the time! Differences are not good or bad and people are basically the same all over the world around us. The more we are exposed, the more we can understand and appreciate others and the better we will be able to cooperate and collaborate. We are a global society now, and our students deserve to see what that means in as many ways as possible.

Linda, Rosman Middle School's Teacher of the Year, has been teaching Spanish for 10 years in a combined middle/high school. She learned Spanish living in Mexico, and got her Masters in Spanish at App State. She has 3 children,one of whom just spent her senior year living in Oaxaca Mexico as an exchange student. Linda just returned home from a 9 day trip ziplining around Costa Rica with 15 students and 5 parents. Her next trip is to Italy/Spain in June 2017.

Connect with @SraCarrillo on Twitter for more ideas for your own after-school culture club!

Check out more great ideas from Appalachian Summer Institute alums

No comments:

Post a Comment