Beaufort Academy students sharpen Spanish skills with St. Helena workers

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comMay 16, 2012 

A field trip took Beaufort Academy students to a farm in their backyard, but it might as well have been a world away.

Eight students in one of Gretchen Tefft's Spanish classes visited a farm on St. Helena Island to speak with migrant workers and their families about their lives.

The trip was designed to introduce the students to a culture they had been reading about in class and to allow them to converse in Spanish with the workers.

"I want them to be able to understand that (the language) is a means of communication," Tefft said. "It's not just learning the grammar or how to get a point across. It's also a great deal of culture."

The students said they were surprised at how open and welcoming the migrant workers were. Because they were so welcoming, some of the students' nervousness about speaking Spanish quickly vanished.

"They were very accepting," junior Alondra Rodriguez said. "They didn't judge (our ability) at all. They understand that it's not easy to speak another language."

The students saw where workers harvest tomatoes and watermelons, saw the families' homes and spent time with some of the children. They also toured Beaufort Jasper Hampton Comprehensive Health Services, which provides health care to some migrant workers.

"It was easier to talk to the kids," senior Katherine Neal said. "You don't have to have proper grammar."

Neal said the conditions of the workers' homes and their lives seemed better than she imagined. Still, she admitted, working on a farm for eight to 10 hours a day nearly every day and moving as the seasons change would be difficult.

Overall, the families of the workers seemed happy, senior Sarah Chahin said, especially when the students delivered their donations of clothes and food.

The field trip was a success, Tefft said. On the way back, she heard students talk about how much they enjoyed themselves and what they had learned.

"It resonates with the kids," she said. "It's not a textbook any more; it's real people and real problems in their community."

Related content

  1. A fruitful month: Beaufort greets migrant workers with food and health care; June 14, 2008
  2. Beaufort Jasper Hampton Comprehensive Health Services

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