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Cultured palates, and palettes

POSTED: December 27, 2012 6:52 p.m.
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French teacher Valerie Granzow helps a student at the hors d’oeuvres table.

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The South Effingham High School media center was transformed into an art gallery for a week to teach students about the cultures of Spanish- and French-speaking countries.


The SEHS media center teamed up with the foreign language and art departments to create a “cultural museum.” Students in Spanish, French and art classes — more than 850 students in all – visited the mock museum to study works of art and sample hors d’oeuvres of those countries.


“It helps to broaden their minds, to see the world from a different cultural perspective,” said SEHS media specialist Catherine Olivier.


Students began their visit by tasting appetizers. The French classes enjoyed pate, Swiss cheese and baguettes and Belgian cream puffs, while the Spanish classes sampled taquitos, taco chips and salsa.


The students then spent a class period browsing a collection of paintings, sculpture and architecture relevant to each culture. Male and female artists and architects were represented, with artworks including abstract and realistic works and ranging from ancient times to Postmodern in the 1990s.


Each student chose a particular artwork to write about. The students were assigned to describe the piece’s design, coloration and imagery and identify its historical period and location, as well as describe their overall experience visiting the “cultural museum.”


The featured artists for the Spanish classes to study included Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Freida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The French gallery included works from Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Marie Vigee-LeBrun, Mary Cassatt, Nikki De St. Phalle and others.


“Maybe this will whet the appetite of some students to visit a museum or even visit a particular country,” Olivier said.


SEHS art teacher Mary Cale Wilson, French teacher Valerie Granzow and Spanish teachers Judson Alford, Jeff Fortson, Kelli Lariscy and Gloria Malave all took their classes to the mock museum. Fortson described the exercise as “very beneficial” addition to the students’ classroom work, which focuses much more on the written and spoken word than the culture from which the language is derived.


“The language, to a large extent, comes from the culture,” Fortson said. “To understand the language, you have to understand the culture they come from.”

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