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Family, fiesta and cultural fare

Students celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with dance, stories and desserts

POSTED: October 17, 2011 1:30 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Kindergartners at the New Holland Core Knowledge Academy in Gainesville dance the macarena Thursday while celebrating Hispanic heritage. The students had a chance to sample food, make a Mexican flag, dance to music and listen to a story in Spanish.

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New Holland Core Knowledge Academy kindergarten students enjoyed a multi-sensory Hispanic Heritage celebration last week.

"This is the first year that we’ve done this," said Amy Russell, a New Holland kindergarten teacher.

The event was held on Thursday, one of the last days of the National Hispanic Heritage Month, at the Gainesville school.

Visitors were greeted with brightly colored signs that read, "Welcome to Our Fiesta," as they entered the kindergarten wing of the school. Six-year-old Sarah Castaneda even wore a Spanish-style dress with a flowing skirt and ruffled collar especially for the celebration.

"I had fun," said Makayla Harrison, a kindergarten student at New Holland.

The celebration was dispersed among the six kindergarten classrooms. Each room hosted a different learning activity to help the students become more familiar with Hispanic culture.

In Amanda Teasley’s classroom, students learned about the history of the Mexican flag and even had the opportunity to create their own souvenir flag.

In another room, the students played a Spanish version of Bingo.

"I liked the dancing," said Eric Chavez, a kindergarten student.

The celebration was also a family affair. Parents and siblings of the students were invited to attend and participate in the fiesta.

Some parents read stories in Spanish and English to the students, while others — like Maria Maldonado — cooked the authentic Spanish cuisine that the students sampled.

There were was arroz — which is Spanish for rice — tacos, quesadillas and tamales. The students also had a chance to sample several Hispanic desserts.

"The food was good," said Edwin Lopez, a kindergarten student.

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated nationwide from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 each year. The cultural holiday started out as National Hispanic Heritage Week, which was celebrated during the week of Sept. 15 and 16, as authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1968.

According to the Law Library of Congress, that week was significant because it marked the "anniversaries of independence for the Latin American countries of Costa Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua as well as Mexico’s independence on Sept.16."

In 1988, Congress expanded the heritage week into the monthlong observance that is celebrated today.



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