Jefferson Middle School fifth graders recently had an opportunity to better understand the main character in their English Language Arts book by creating yarn dolls and hosting a food tasting for students and their families.
The book, Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, traces the journey of Esperanza, a young girl born into a comfortable life of privilege in Mexico in the 1930s, who is forced to flee to California and must rise above her difficult circumstances.
As part of their unit, which encompasses comparing and contrasting events, main ideas and supporting details, as well as learning more about themes, the yarn dolls represent a way Esperanza adjusts to her new life in California. The yarn dolls demonstrate bringing a part of the home she knew in Mexico to a home that’s unfamiliar to her.
The teachers also provided food that represented different phases of time in Esperanza’s new life, specifically her new job at the camp. Students invited family members to the food tasting so that they could experience this part of the character’s life with their child.
Fifth grade teacher, Rebecca Rupolo, discussed the value of the project, “We grow up eating the food of our own cultures. It becomes a part of who we are with memories attached to it and it ties us to our families. It is important to experience food of different cultures not only to taste it, but to learn about why it is so significant to that culture. By having the Esperanza Rising Food tasting, it took everything that we have been learning about in class for the past three months and allows the students in our classes to get a deeper understanding of the Mexican culture.”