los medios de transporte-una actividad para nivel 1 ó 2

It’s easy to add a sustainability angle to an introduction or review of vocabulary for medios de transporte.

First, I give students this handout with drawings of  el monopatín, el coche, el metro, el tren, el autobús, a caballo, la motocicleta, la bicicleta, el crucero, el avión  y a pie.  I add the Spanish (nouns or nouns with verbs) underneath the drawings and sometimes I copy the same drawings on the back without the Spanish, so as they gain confidence students can describe the pictures without the prompts.  I project the handout on the board and students point to the pictures on their own handouts as I describe them.  If it’s a review, students can do this same activity in pairs with one student speaking and one student pointing–then they switch roles.

Next students cut out the pictures and work in pairs to group the medios de transporte according to categories I give them orally.  Pairs share their ideas with the whole class, noting and accounting for similarities and differences in their answers.  For example:  ¿Para qué medios de transporte necesitas comprar un boleto?  Pongan los medios de transporte en órden:  el más rápido al menos rápido (el más caro al más económico, etc.)  ¿Qué medios de transporte llevan muchas personas en un vehículo?  ¿Qué medios de transporte NO tienen ruedas?  ¿Qué medio de transporte es más divertido (menos divertido)?  ¿Más peligroso?  ¿Más seguro?  ¿Causa más estrés? ¿Prefieres? etc.    To end the activity I ask:  Pongan los medios de transporte en órden del medio de transporte que tiene la huella de carbono más grande al medio de transporte que tiene la huella de carbono menos grande.  Although “huella” is a new word, a simple drawing on the board makes it clear.  I’ve found that most students are familiar with the term “carbon footprint” in English and easily understand their task.  If they are uncertain, other students can explain.  (I’ve done this activity with Spanish 2 and it’s been good practice for the students to express themselves using the simple Spanish they know.)

The first time I did this I didn’t actually know the answer. However, the activity generated a lively debate and it turned out that a student who had given some surprising responses was right.  Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I presume that the greater the energy consumed, the larger the carbon footprint.  The chart below comes from the September 2009 volume of the magazine Nuestro Planeta published by the Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (also known by their English initials UNEP). You can find the complete volume and more free pdf files of their magazine here.

Another issue sometimes raised by students is contaminación vs huella de carbono.   For example, doesn’t the cruise ship pollute more / have a greater negative impact on the environment since it might be dumping its waste into the ocean?  Students can re-order their dibujos based on contaminación.  The point here isn’t necessarily to come up with THE right answer, but rather to help students begin to develop the habit of asking questions about how our actions impact the environment and each other.  Don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be a “downer,” either.  Have fun and emphasize the positive.

Posted in Ecological Living, Environmental Resources in Spanish, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

La Conquista de las Américas

It is difficult to avoid the implicit (and at times explicit) racism in most re-tellings of the conquest of the Americas:  “The defeat of the Aztec and Incan civilizations by small bands of Spanish conquistadores must reflect the superiority of Europeans.”  This sentiment has echoed throughout history and remains current in education, government policies and popular culture.  Not only is it incumbent on us as teachers to lead students to question this erroneous conclusion, but the lessons learned in the process can inspire the attitudes and pursuit of knowledge necessary to create just and environmentally sustainable societies.

**Most links in the following paragraph are to Spanish-language explanations, reviews or versions of the English-language resources.

If you haven’t read Jared Diamond’s 1999 Pulitzer-prize winning book, Guns, Germs and Steel (or his follow-up 2003 study of unsuccessful civilizations, Collapse) it is a good place to start.  In the book he poses the question, Why did the Spaniards conquer the Incan empire rather than the Incas conquer the Spanish empire?  But instead of recurring to the usual racist, non-scientific thesis, he draws upon wide-ranging branches of science–from biology to botany to ecology, geography, epidemiology, archeology, anthropology and more—to discover the ultimate causes behind the proximate causes of the conquest.  Beware of oversimplifications of Diamond’s theories (In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Diamond defended himself against the mischaracterization of his work by certain politicians), however I think it’s safe to say that a combination of geographic features (such as the North-South axis of the Americas versus the East-West axis of Eurasia), climate and ecology (such as the presence of domesticable plants and animals in the local environment) gave the Europeans a head start on agriculture.  This head start impacted population size, technology and political organization, giving Spaniards the famous advantages of guns, germs, steel, as well as the horses and more wide-spread literacy, that supported their conquest.  You can find a Spanish-language version of the three-part PBS video series based on his book here.

In the conquest of the Americas, the Spaniards and other Europeans gained much more than gold, silver, slaves and colonies.  The oft over-looked contributions of indigenous peoples of the Americas to world knowledge, technology, nutrition and political theory can be easily incorporated into a variety of themes in the Spanish curriculum.  The potato, for example, is frequently confused by students as having Irish or German origins.  It was developed, however, by the Incas through their ingenious system of terraced agriculture, and had a tremendous impact on European peasant populations that in turn impacted the European social and political milieu.  For more background on this and more, I recommend Jack Weatherford’s books Indian Givers:  How Native Americans Transformed the World (1988), Native Roots:  How the Indians Enriched America (1992) and the more wide-ranging Savages and Civilization:  Who will Survive? (1995).  There are Spanish-language resources available, too, of course, such as Lo que México Aportó al Mundo by Ramón Cruces Carvajal, which focuses mainly on food, plants and minerals.

A good project for Spanish-language students is to write a story (children’s story, time-line, cartoon, dialogue) of the origins of food or technology often not associated with indigenous american cultures and present it to the class.  The AP Spanish Literature and Culture reading list includes primary documents from the conquest of the Aztecs that could be enhanced by an introduction to Diamond’s theories (themes: Encuentro Entre Dos Culturas;  Imperialismo, etc.)

Posted in A Sense of Place, Environment & Ecology, Peace & Conflict, Rights & Solidarity, Tolerance & Diversity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Como la vida misma

Como la vida misma, the short story by Rosa Montero, puts you in the driver’s seat during a morning traffic jam in an anonymous city.  Humorous at times, the present tense, second person narration pulls you into the stress, aggression, euphoria, despair, isolation, cruelty, hope and hypocrisy of fifteen intensely lived minutes as the narrator’s car advances through a mostly hostile environment towards a hard won parking space.  Although sealed into the car for most of the story, the narrator memorably makes contact with others such as el chico en un moto:  “Su facilidad te indigna, su libertad te subleva.  Mueves el coche unos centímetros, arrimándolo una pizca al del vecino, y compruebas con alivio que el transgresor se encuentra bloqueado…”;  los otros conductores:  “Te vuelves en el asiento, te encaras con la fila de atrás, ves a los conductores a través de la capa de contaminación y polvo que cubre los cristales de tu coche.  Gesticulas desaforadamente. Los de atrás contestan con más gestos….Doscientos mil conductores solitarios encerrados en doscientos mil vehículos, todos ellos insultando gestualmente a los vecinos…”;  la peatón:  “Te abalanzas sobre la anciana, la sorteas por milímetros, la envuelves del viento de tu prisa: Cuidado abuela, gritas por la ventanilla;  estas viejas son un peligro, un peligro, te dices a ti mismo, sintiéndote cargado de razón.”  

This short story has recently been included in the revised AP Spanish Literature and Culture reading list and is now available in a number of anthologies, complete with comprehension and analysis questions.    As the title indicates, the experience of the narrator resonates on many different levels.    I won’t attempt to re-hash what has already been written, but here are some ideas for adding a sustainability dimension to class discussions.

The Asociación de Peatones de Quito, creators of Peatónman (see other posts on this blog) also produced the following video of politically-oriented cartoons depicting our relationship with cars and its impact on individuals, communities and the environment.  ¿Qué dibujo (o dibujos) te llama la atención más?  ¿Por qué?  ¿Qué dibujo (o dibujos) corresponde más a las ideas expresadas en el cuento corto Como La Vida Misma?  ¿Qué dibujo corresponde más a la realidad, según tu propia experiencia?  ¿Qué dibujo no (o menos) corresponde a la realidad?  (etc.)  ¿Cuál es lo bueno y lo malo de tener un coche?  ¿Has escuchado el lema “It’s not just a car, it’s a freedom”?  Comenta.

Trends towards urbanization have caused cities to swell.  In older cities cars often overwhelm a built environment not designed for them.  In other places neighborhoods and roads have been designed to facilitate the movement of cars to the exclusion of other factors.  Quality of life and human relationships within these communities have been prone to the same stress and degradation as the infrastructure itself.

Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, initiated a program to reduce the numbers of cars  and increase the number of pedestrians on the streets in order to improve the quality of life of the citizens.  A 2007 documentary in English, “Bogotá:  Building a Sustainable City” traces these efforts.  It’s part of PBS’ series “e2 design,” and can be purchased digitally on the internet.  Students can also research Bogotá’s Día Sin Carro, which takes place every February, and read the strong reactions–both pro and con–from ordinary participants through their commentary on the articles.

Other resources include Embarq México, a part of a network of organizations in diverse countries dedicated to sustainable public transportation and making urban spaces safe for pedestrians.  A video related to the short story can be found by searching on the above web site for the article “Por la calidad de vida de 90 millones de mexicanos.”  The video includes short interviews with commuters who report the time they spend in transit each day.  The Spanish web site Ecomovilidad supports sustainable transportation (including bicycles) in the cities of Granada, Madrid and Barcelona.

Finally, for those seeking further evidence, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development-of which the U.S. and Spain are participating members) produced this report in 2011 detailing the wide-ranging benefits of walkable cities and sustainable transportation.  (I’ve attached the Spanish language version).

¿Cómo reaccionaría el narrador de Como La Vida Misma a las ideas del transporte sostenible?  ¿Por qué?  Apoya tus ideas con evidencia del cuento.  ¿Es el transporte sostenible posible o un sueño imposible?  ¿Por qué dicen que el transporte sostenible puede mejorar la calidad de vida?  ¿Tienen razón?  ¿Cuál es tu forma de movilización preferida?  ¿Por qué?  Describe un barrio ideal de una ciudad grande.  ¿Qué hay?  ¿Qué no hay?  ¿Cómo se moviliza la gente?  ¿Por qué?  ¿Cómo se comunica la gente?  ¿Por qué?

Posted in A Sense of Place, Ecological Living, Quality of Life, Rights & Solidarity, Sustainable Economics & Consumption | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Ágata y las Olimpiadas: Contaminación del aire y los derechos de niños y niñas

The Olympic Games in London this summer surely will leave us with new heroes and heroines and inspiring stories to tell.  Here’s another perspective on the hopes and dreams of young athletes.  La red por los derechos de la infancia en México produced this video about the impact of air pollution on children who live close to major roads in cities.  Students can compare/contrast the statistics and lifestyle represented in the video with their own experience, write or act out a response, or create their own videos.  Connecting unit themes include la niñez; los deportes y los pasatiempos; las ciudades; el medio ambiente.

Posted in A Sense of Place, Ecological Living, Quality of Life, Rights & Solidarity | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tox Town y la Salud Ambiental

La Ciudad, Tox Town

“¿Sabe usted qué riesgos para la salud ambiental existen en su comunidad?”  The National Library of Medicine has produced a Spanish-language version of Tox Town, an interactive web site created for children to learn about health hazards in their environment.  By clicking on categories such as “la ciudad,” “la granja,” “el puerto,” “la escuela,” “la oficina” and even “regiones fronterizas de los EEUU,” you will be taken to an interactive map.  Dragging an arrow across places on the map gives you the name in Spanish, a sound effect and, on the right side, a list of possible health hazards.  While the chemical information can be quite technical, some students may be able to draw upon their science knowledge to make connections.  The

La Granja, Tox Town

cartoon-style maps are easy to interpret and can be used for vocabulary reinforcement and  story-telling.  Before checking the maps, students can also speculate about what environmental hazards one might encounter in each place and strategies that communities use to minimize these health risks.  Who is responsible for making a community safe?  What role does each member or constituency in a community play?  The web site offers resources for teachers and classroom activities in English that can be converted for use with Spanish-language learners.  There is also a “Tox Town Mystery” interactive game available on a cd in Spanish and English, although I have not seen it yet.

Posted in A Sense of Place, Ecological Living, Environment & Ecology, Environmental Resources in Spanish | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

más sobre los árboles: la diversidad, la historia, la literatura…

Quebracho blanco
del sitio Verde Chaco

In the sixteenth century when the Jesuits, for better or worse, carved out their missions deep in the forests of South America, they came across a tree they named quebracho–“quiebra hacha” or “axe breaker”–for the surprising heaviness and hardness of the wood.  The Guaraní and other indigenous peoples who lived there first used the bark of this tree medicinally and taught the Jesuits to do so, too.   The power of the environment to shape history, peoples and cultures is evident in two useful and thoughtfully detailed web sites focusing on trees and other flora in South America.

If you scroll down the right side of the Verde Chaco blog, past the long list of latin names, you’ll find the Spanish and indigenous names of a large number of trees, many native to Argentina, but also from around the world.  In addition to photographs and descriptions, many entries include well researched and cited historical and literary quotes and references, as well as legends and stories associated with the plant.  I’ve used this blog to supplement readings on historical and literary themes.

Another excellent resource is the Chilebosque web site.

de Chilebosque

In addition to a colorful and informative catalog of Chilean flora, there are interactive maps, downloadable guides and books and a section on poetry (featuring works by Chilean poets Pablo Neruda andGabriela Mistral) and indigenous legends related to specific plants.  The section Flora Nativa Urbana includes maps identifying native plants and trees in cities.  There’s even a section identifying the gigantes, the largest examples of particular plants or trees in the country.  Lots of potential readings, photographs for students to describe or compare, maps to navigate and information for “travel” themed assignments.  Another valuable resource is the extensive list of links to other sites that cover not only Chilean flora and fauna, but also national parks, conservation efforts, historical documents and other closely related topics

Posted in A Sense of Place, Environment & Ecology, Environmental Resources in Spanish | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Un Anuncio Incómodo de España

Below are some video spots on climate change.  I’ve used the first spot from Spain, “Cambiemos el mundo sin cambiar el planeta,” as a listening exercise, discussion starter and grammar practice (present perfect -indicative and subjunctive) using this handout: un anuncio sobre el medio ambiente.

Posted in Ecological Living, Sustainable Economics & Consumption | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cuentos: La Vida en el Bosque Tropical

You’re probably familiar with the Rain Forest Alliance.  In addition to the Spanish-language version of their web site and excellent curriculum materials in English, you can download seven libros de cuentos virtuales about children living in rain forests in Central and South America.  Many of the books include photographs and are told in the first person using fairly basic Spanish.  There are two books about the national park El Imposible in El Salvador.  Alex Explora El Imposible focuses on the unique flora and fauna of the park, while in La Vida en San Miguelito a young boy describes life on his family’s finca where they raise much of the food they eat as well as shade-grown coffee. El Hogar Andino de Chayo is told by a young girl from Colombia who also lives on a farm that produces shade-grown coffee.   El Hogar de Romel en el Bosque Tropical, set in Ecuador, is narrated by a boy belonging to the Chachi indigenous group.  In the story he explains that he, his family and friends speak Spanish as a second language and he teaches the reader some phrases in his native Chapalachi.  The other stories include Mi Papá el Guardaparques, set in Belize, and two pictures books:  Clara y el Armadillo and Manny el Manatí y el Misterio del Agua Turbia.

These stories can be integrated into units on childhood, daily routines, agriculture, food, animals or the environment.  Venn diagrams, web charts (revealing the relationships among plants, animals, people), letter writing and journaling can help students deepen their understanding of the stories.  You can also explore food origins and fair trade (coffee).

Posted in A Sense of Place, Ecological Living, Environment & Ecology, Environmental Resources in Spanish, Tolerance & Diversity | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

sobre los árboles

Once I lived in a place with no trees.  No instrument for the breeze, no background green, no rest for the eyes, no branch to climb, no bark to float, no leaves to trace, no fruit to snitch, no tap on the window, no shadow on the wall, no slow growth to measure a life.  In our imaginations a tree can be a child’s companion, history’s witness or storyteller for those who know how to listen. Trees anchor a wide range of ecosystems and play both hero and victim in the current climate change drama.

So if you live in a place with trees–even one tree will do– they may be a good way for students to develop sustainability sense through close reading of nature.  By studying trees students can sharpen their Spanish language skills and strengthen their powers of observation while making scientific, literary, community, and cultural connections.

Openlands Escuela del Árbol

Escuela del Árbol is a program for grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 developed by Openlands, a Chicago-based non-profit dedicated to protecting urban open spaces and promoting environmental appreciation and stewardship.  The attached PDF file, Tree_School_Spanish,  includes Spanish-language lesson plans for naming the parts and functions of trees, exploring contributions trees make to our lives and telling tree stories.  The worksheets, drawings and activities are perfect for Spanish language learners (level 2 and up) to acquire new vocabulary and practice reading, writing and speaking skills.  The plans can be used as a unit or individual activities can be pulled out to supplement other themes such as childhood, food and nutrition, dwellings and neighborhoods, the city, the country, agriculture and farming, story-telling, history or the environment.

El Nombre del Árbol.  What is a tree and how do you say its true name?  In English?  Spanish?  Latin?  Mayan?  Reforestamos México has a section on their web site dedicated to el especie de la semana that includes photographs and short descriptions of a variety of tree species.  A more technical and thorough list is available at UNAM’s Instituto de Biología árboles site.  Curricular connections:  Students can identify and label trees on your school campus or in their neighborhood using the languages spoken in your community.  They can pick an interesting tree and tell a story about it, write a letter to it or draw and describe its ecosystem, including its relationships to other plants, animals and people.  Advanced students can also benefit from the lists above when they come across a reference to an unfamiliar species of trees in literature.

Árboles y Literatura.  Trees have inspired many authors and poets.  Here are just a few ideas:  Intermediate students can read all or part of El árbol de los sueños.   Written by Fernando Alonso and illustrated by Emilio Urberuaga, this children’s novel contains five imaginative short stories with trees as main characters.  The stories are told by a narrator determined to defend a fellow-writer who has been arrested for writing sobre los árboles. The chapters stand alone, however read the book cover-to-cover to enjoy the author’s joke at the end.

Another favorite is uruguayan Juana de Ibarbourou’s poem:

La Higuera

Porque es áspera y fea / porque todas sus ramas son grises, / yo le tengo piedad a la higuera.

En mi quinta hay cien árboles bellos, / ciruelos redondos, / limoneros rectos / y naranjos de brotes lustrosos.

En las primaveras, / todos ellos se cubren de flores / en torno a la higuera.

Y la pobre parece tan triste / con sus gajos torcidos que nunca / de apretados capullos se viste…

Por eso,/ cada vez que yo paso a su lado, / digo, procurando / hacer dulce y alegre mi acento:/ Es la higuera el más bello / de los árboles todos del huerto.

Si ella escucha, / si comprende el idioma en que hablo, / ¡qué dulzura tan honda hará nido / en su alma sensible de árbol!

Y tal vez, a la noche, / cuando el viento abanique su copa, / embriagada de gozo le cuente:

¡Hoy a mí me dijeron hermosa!

More poems plus activities for analysis are available on this site under the heading Poesía: Árboles y Versos.  For simpler poems try aulauruguay.  All this, of course, just scratches the surface!

Posted in A Sense of Place, Environment & Ecology, Environmental Resources in Spanish | Tagged , | Leave a comment

La Vida Verde-comprensión auditiva con RNE

Radio Nacional de España offers a weekly radio program, La Vida Verde presented by Pilar Sampietro Colom, that explores green initiatives throughout Spain.  The radio programs are about 50 minutes long and incorporate several segments, including new music from Spanish artists, interviews with activists and experts and news-style reports.  You can listen to the programs on-line through their web page and/or download particular topics for students.  Recent programs include Eco-aldeas y huertos con pájaros;  Energía del Sol;  Empresas éticas y autoconstrucción;  y Árboles en la ciudad.

Posted in Ecological Living, Environment & Ecology, Environmental Resources in Spanish, Sustainable Economics & Consumption | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment