This post is by Elisabeth Dukes, 10th Grade Student at High Tech High North County.
Ninth grade was the year I realized that I had a voice.
The Corazón y Alma project (Heart and Soul) was an interdisciplinary project between my Humanities, Math/Physics, and Spanish classes. In Humanities we focused on an in-depth analysis of Latin American culture and history through experiential learning activities. This was important because at the end of the project we were inviting the public to our performing arts, history, and science festival. We had an opportunity to explore multiple perspectives by collectively researching and presenting on every country in Latin America, engaging in Socratic discussions, and hearing from U.S. Border Patrol agents, Border Angels volunteers, and community activists. During the project we visited Chicano Park to learn about art and activism, Grape Day Park to learn about local history, and Friendship Park to contemplate the border fences that separate the United States and Mexico. We wanted to share what we learned with the public in variety of ways, including art, music, dance, theater, and poetry. I wanted to challenge myself, so I signed up for the spoken word poetry group. Eight of us divided into teams of two to write bilingual poems to perform at our public exhibition.
My partner Cesar and I decided to write about Chicano Park, a park that celebrates Latin American culture past and present. We wanted to make sure that both of our opinions and ideas were included, so we sat down and discussed what we wanted in our poem. We asked each other questions like:
“What did you connect with when we walked through Chicano Park?”
“What mural in Chicano Park left the most impact on you?”
“How do you feel about the city’s mistreatment of Chicano Park?”
These were just some of the questions we asked each other to figure out what emotions we wanted to convey and how we wanted to impact our audience. Once we had a brief outline of our poem’s message and what aspects of history we wanted to include, we started to write together. We worked out every line together and asked for critique from our peers after each draft. Cesar helped me with the pronunciation of the Spanish words in our poem and I helped him with performance presence. It was the perfect partnership!
Before our performance I felt a little nervous, but I knew that Cesar and I were going to nail it. We put a lot of effort into writing and practicing, and I felt confident that our hard work would pay off. It did. Performing our poem in front of a live audience was when I truly felt the significance of our message and our exhibition as a whole. To be honest, after the performance I felt relieved, but I also felt inspired. I was inspired to make a difference in the world and somehow change it for the better. Coach Clark, my ninth grade Humanities teacher, encouraged me to believe in myself and use my voice for people whose voices have been silenced. I found yet another reason to enjoy learning.
During the Corazón y Alma project I discovered my love for different cultures and my voice. Each new lesson taught was not just a lecture or activity it was an experience. These experiences came through classroom activities, group work, and interactions with the community, allowing me to personally connect to my learning. The Corazón y Alma project taught me how to voice my ideas, present publicly, and be confident. You could say that through the Corazón y Alma project I found my own heart and soul.
You can find my spoken word performance here.
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