Parker Hosts Middle School Students from Barcelona, Spain

North Greenbush – On Sunday, March 17 Robert C. Parker School will welcome 10 sixth and seventh-graders from Barcelona for a one-week cultural interchange.  These students from St. Peter’s School  will attend middle school classes with their Parker peers in an immersion experience designed to enlarge world views, provide opportunities to practice language skills, and foster friendships.

Accompanied by St. Peter’s teachers, the Spanish students will participate fully in Parker’s daily routine.  Sarah Biondello, Language Arts teacher and Erin Wallace Spanish teacher, have worked with a committee to develop a number of special programs during the visit. These include a welcoming assembly, getting-to-know-you games, a literature exchange, LEGO Robotics sessions, a video presentation from the Spanish students, and a singing concert with new friends.  Together, Parker students and St. Peter’s students will explore Parker’s woods in a natural science context.  There will be a visit to the State Capitol and Museum and social plans that include a pot-luck supper, a bowling party and a farewell dance.

Students will be hosted by Parker families who have discussed issues that might arise, like differences in food and home routines.  They have exchanged information and photos with visiting students about their homes, pets and interests.

“These two weeks at school and living with our families will provide our students and the St. Peter’s students with a much deeper understanding of cultural differences and similarities than they could learn from any book or film or even research project,” said Wallace. “In the end, I predict we’re going to understand that we’re more similar than different.”

“When you have authentic opportunities like this, the world becomes smaller and infinitely larger at the same time,” says Meg Taylor, Parker’s Head.  “Students will make first hand connections that we hope will last a lifetime.”

Parker teachers along with their Spanish counterparts have worked for over a year to establish relationships between the two schools.  Planning began last January when Biondello and Parker art teacher, Susie Merrett visited St. Peter’s to explore the possibility of a partnership between the two schools.  They presented teachers at St. Peter’s with a packet of letters to the St. Peter’s students written in Spanish by Parker middle schoolers. The St. Peter’s students wrote back in English.  The Principal of St. Peter’s and their middle school director spent time at Parker last fall to firm up arrangements.

“Parker students are delighted that the St. Peter’s students will be coming to visit our school,” said Biondello. “They are now getting ready to use their Spanish in person.”

The experience is a natural complement to both schools. Parker teaches Spanish to students starting in Preschool.  Students at St. Peter’s are expected to master Spanish, Catalan, English and French, with an introduction to German, although English is the primary language spoken at the school.

“We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our friends from St. Peter’s School,” said Taylor. “We are excited to show them the Parker warmth and the world-renowned New York friendliness.”