By MEGHAN McCOY
Third grade students at Fort Myers Christian School wore sombreros while enjoying some authentic Spanish food and beverages Thursday morning in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
Jackson Sims, a 3rd grade student at Fort Myers Christian School in Fort Myers, took part in the celebration Thursday morning, enjoying eating salsa and chips in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year when President Ronald Reagan expanding the celebration in 1988 to cover a 30-day period.
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate their independence on Sept. 15, Mexico achieved independence on Sept. 16 and Chili claimed its independence on Sept. 18, which all fall within the National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Annelisa Swiersz, 8, said so far this month she has learned about the independence that several Latin American countries celebrated. She said they have drawn pictures to learn about the independence, along with learning about the food they eat.
The celebration also involved a showing of artifacts from one of the many Latin American countries Thursday morning.
Annelisa brought an authentic dress and sombrero from Mexico to show the class.
"I have culture already in the classroom," Fort Myers Christian School Spanish Teacher Aileen Gonzales said. "The culture comes from the kids, too."
Deangelo Dibella, 8, said he also enjoyed learning about the celebration of the 21 Spanish countries. Although he could not name all of the countries, he rattled off a handful.
The students also celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month by enjoying authentic Spanish cookies, drinks and homemade salsa with beans and corn.
"This is awesome," Deangelo said about the celebration. "We get to parade all over the school playing instruments."
Gonzales said her students look forward to the month-long celebration every year because it is so much more fun to learn Spanish with the many activities that are held.
She said as a Spanish teacher she wants to incorporate National Heritage Month into her lesson plans because it is a celebration of all the cultures of Spanish people, along with food and the flavor of Spanish language.
"I take the whole month and do something different," Gonzales said.
Some of the activities have included Spanish trivia, creating maracas, coloring a picture of a Spanish dancer, writing an essay about a famous Spanish speaking person, along with a Spanish speaking country.
Due to her passion of teaching others the language of Spanish, she begins reading Spanish stories to pre-K students before they begin learning the language in kindergarten.
Gonzales said it is important to teach students Spanish at a young age because they can begin having conversations as a teenager.