The Heights

In photos: The Heights celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

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On October 5, the families, students, and staff of Treadwell Elementary School took a field trip unlike any other. They traveled to Spain and dozens of Spanish-speaking countries in North, Central and South America — and they did it without ever leaving the school.

The roughly 200 students in Treadwell’s optional dual-language program that immerses students in Spanish and English hosted a day-long celebration in of honor Hispanic Heritage Month. The festivities included a stage presentation and a “world tour,” with student tour guides leading guests through the histories and cultures of Spanish-speaking countries complete with presentations, music, dance, and art. Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 through October 15, and was first recognized as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968.


Related: “The state’s only dual-language program grows with Memphis’ Latino population


“[Our celebration] was an opportunity for us to invite the community into the school and participate with us in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month,” said Darlene May, Treadwell’s optional program coordinator. “It was led by dual language [students], but it was for the entire school,” she continued.


It was also an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they’ve learned throughout the year in a fun and engaging format and to showcase the diversity of their own neighborhood. According to May, the school’s student body is 36 percent Spanish-speaking, representing dozens of countries and cultures, and its faculty is similarly diverse.


“Programs like this are about giving our students the opportunity to be a part of a collaborative process, leading, sharing what they are learning ... for them to know that even as elementary students, they are a valuable piece of the culture of Memphis and that they can teach others and advocate for things that matter to them,” said May.

Fourth-grade students greet parents and guests and hand out programs from the "tourist information booth." (Renier Otto)


Parents, guests, and students embarking on the world tour were first met by Treadwell's fourth-grade students at the "tourist information booth" who passed out programs in the style of trip itineraries. Travelers then moved through different areas of the school which represented Spain and the different regions and countries of Latin America.
A second-grade student shares how her class made molas, or traditional textile art, with a classmate's grandfather and younger brother. (Renier Otto)

A second-grade student shares the history of molas with a visiting parent. (Renier Otto) Second-grade students showcased countries from South America and artwork in the mola style, a traditional textile art form of the Kuna or Guna people indigenous to Panama and Colombia. Third grade, representing Mexico, worked with the school’s art teacher to create amate bark paper paintings, a type of folkart from the La Mezcala region of Guerrero, Mexico.

Their classroom teacher then had them “practice explaining what amate bark paintings are, the culture of the people, how they made the paintings and then explaining how their art [fits] into that,” said May.

Fifth-grade students present information on Argentina to parents and guests. (Renier Otto)

A fifth-grade student signs his work, a drawing of the Ecuadorian flag. (Renier Otto)

Fifth-grade students highlighted the cultures, histories, and must-see tourists spots of eight different South American countries. To prepare, they learned to create and facilitate a PowerPoint presentation.

“It gave them the opportunity not only to show off what they learned but learn in the process,” said May.
A member of Colonial Middle School's dance ensemble teaches a Treadwell Elementary School kindergarten student how to dance the cha-cha. (Renier Otto)

Treadwell Elementary School kindergarten students learn a traditional Latin dance from the Colonial Middle School dance ensemble. (Renier Otto)

Treadwell partnered with Colonial Middle School for the celebration. Colonial's dance ensemble taught 10-minute Latin dance workshops in the school’s kindergarten classes while the orchestra gave short performances for kindergarten and first-grade classes and taught them about the instruments.
Members of the Colonia Middle School's dance ensemble put on a pop-up performance of Latin American dance for students and guests. (Renier Otto)

A first-grade student peeks around the corner at a pop-up performance as his classmates line up behind him. (Renier Otto) The world tour also included pop-up dance and music presentations by Treadwell’s first and second-grade students and the Colonial Middle School dance ensemble and orchestra.

“When you’re traveling around the world, you never know what kind of music or art or what else you may see,” said May. “So we set up this world tour so people are sitting there looking at art and listening to their tour guide and all of a sudden there are some kids singing!”

First-grade students line up and prepare to sing "Cielito Lindo", a popular Mexican song. (Renier Otto)

The Treadwell Elementary School band moves to attention and prepares to enter the auditorium. They kicked off the stage performance with "Havana" by Camila Cabello. (Renier Otto)

Two kindergarten girls introduce their class song to the audience of Treadwell Elementary School as part of a Hispanic History Month celebration. (Renier Otto)

The world tour ended in a stage presentation that included the dual language classes and one non-optional fourth grade class presenting songs and dances from countries including Panama, Spain, Mexico and more.

Treadwell’s band kicked off the presentation with "Havana" by Camila Cabello and the kindergarten gave the first performance which highlighted many of the different countries claimed by Treadwell’s students and staff.
Colonial Middle School's orchestra played during the stage show and in pop-up performances throughout the world tour. (Renier Otto)

Two fifth-grade students, one a native Spanish-speaker and one a native English-speaker, emceed the event and took turns each presenting in both languages. Colonial’s orchestra and dance ensemble also performed and the Treadwell band played between performances.

Students cheer at the Hispanic Heritage Month stage performance. (Renier Otto)
First-grade students sing "Cielito Lindo", a popular Mexican song. (Renier Otto)
Parents beam with pride and capture their children's performances at the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. After the stage show, parents were invited to their children's classrooms for individual celebrations. (Renier Otto)

Some kindergarten students beamed with excitement as they prepared to sing '¿Que ves alli?' (Renier Otto)

May said it was her first time helming the large undertaking, but it was the work of the entire school and larger community that made the event possible. From the faculty and students’ many hours of practice to the army of parent volunteers, the celebration was truly a community effort.

“Everyone did their own small piece ... when you put it together, it made something really incredible,” said May. “It was a beautiful demonstration of our school and people coming together but also of Hispanic culture on the stage.”

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