A Whole New World Through a Zoom Screen
By Abigail Martin
During the week of March 1st, the World Language Week Committee and the World Language Department hosted World Language Week, an annual cultural celebration throughout CHS.
“I think connecting to other cultures that are different allows us to see that, yeah, we may have some similarities and some differences, but World Language Week also allows us to see that we are all human beings. We are all in this together. It also helps us to gain awareness, respect, and appreciation for things that may seem really different to us and to see connections that bring us together,” said Spanish teacher Señor Farkas.
While the week traditionally featured in-class and afterschool activities showcasing other societies, this year’s celebrations had to be moved onto Zoom, which was a challenge. As Ms. Olson, the World Language Department Coordinator, noted, “Not being able to have visitors in the building was tough, but we still had all live-streamed sessions, so that the interactive nature of our programming was not lost, though the group dynamic changed for us.”
While trying to make the program social, the World Language Week committee designed a number of activities both during and after school. Spanish students celebrated both World Language Week and March Madness by doing a Spanish song draft called the “Locura de Marzo,” and French students participated in a similar “Manie Musical” in honor of the fun occasion!
“Even if we don’t necessarily understand the lyrics in Spanish, we can still follow a beat, and you can still hear the tune of the singer, we can hear the different rhythms of the instruments,” noted Señor Farkas, “I think what is beautiful is that when the class is talking about the music, we connect with each other.”
The World Language Week activities didn’t stop when the final school bell rang at 2:29 but instead continued into cultural webinars and activities for everyone to enjoy.
The remote activities added a whole new level of preparation to the event. Kathryn Benson, co-president of the World Language Week committee wrote, “In the past, we have been able to plan World Language Week based on what has worked in previous years, but this year we had to completely reimagine the programming.”
However, once the World Language Week Committee persevered and problem- solved, they ended up with activities that were both culturally immersive and social- a huge accomplishment when you are on Zoom! “Throughout the week we planned activities and presentations like Latin Dancing, UNICEF, Irish Bells, and after school activities,” noted sophomore Allison Long, a member of the World Language Week Committee.
My friend and I participated in Zoom trivia, which I think worked even better on Zoom than it would have in person! With the game moving in and out of break-out rooms, it felt almost like a relay. “I think the Zoom trivia went great,” wrote Christopher Pho, the hilarious host of the trivia competition, “I haven't organized or hosted a trivia event before this, but I can definitely attest to the difficulty of keeping people engaged over Zoom.” Quick side note: my trivia team got second place, and my friend and I are quite proud of how we did! We are going for the gold next year!!
Another great benefit to the virtual World Language Week was that there were brand new, covid-exclusive activities to experience! “Another great surprise was that we even had new programs – fully virtual museum visits – which we never had before and would not have been able to have in a ‘regular year’ because museum docents are usually so busy with face-to-face programs.” Ms. Olson explained.
Hosting World Language Week over Zoom also allowed the program to expand beyond the CHS campus to engage the entire Canton Public School Community. For instance, the Latin Dance Workshop was open to both middle and high school students after school and during class time. In addition to the middle school dance program, the committee hosted an activity for younger students to enjoy. “We also did presentations for the elementary schoolers in the Remote Learning Pathway,” Long explained. “I felt like we got to connect with them and bring the community together.”
The remote events also became more accessible to Canton High School students. “We were able to reach as many students as we wanted because we had Zoom webinars. In the past, our workshops and events would have been capped – some small workshops limited to 15 and larger workshops limited to 60 – but this time around we were able to have every class or student that was interested in attending be able to come to every program. That was awesome because it allowed all students in world language classes the opportunity to access all of our programs,” Ms. Olson noted.
Accessibility during these events is so important to both the school community and individual Language Speakers. “There’s not a lot of opportunities for students to learn more about cultures at school,” Natalie Nguyen, co-president of the World Language Week Committee wrote, “so having these events allows students to explore and learn about different cultures.”
Going along with that, the World Language Week Website also offered participants an easy and accessible way to sign up for these amazing activities! “ I recommend that you go to the World Language Week Club’s website to see the World Language Week Club’s mission and vision and how it is reflected in the work that the club does throughout the year,” Ms. Olson wrote, “...World Language Week Club designed a website to publicize programs, student work, handle after school program registrations, and more.” The World Language Week committee members created a wonderful platform to learn more about World Culture in CHS which you can find here. On the website, you can see past World Language Week events and appreciate a variety of student-made art and videos highlighting cultures around the world!
This week also inspired teamwork amongst both participants and club leaders, as the World Language Week Committee had to pull together to get the job done.
“I operated the camera and monitored the audio, while Señor Farkas cooked and interacted with the participants. We did run into some troubles with the whole setup, but Mr. McDonough was able to help us sort them out,” said Pho, who worked as a tech crew during Señor Farkas’s cooking class on Friday afternoon.
Señor Farkas, who hosted the live class, compared it to prior years saying, “I’ve done cooking classes before in person, and there is a greater feeling of community and engagement. We did a pasta-making class last year and it was so much fun to demo; we all were making it, having fun, and flour was everywhere! Then we got to eat together and enjoy the fruits of our labor. But doing it virtually was a unique experience and I think the students who did attend were able to produce a pastel de tres leches, and we had a lot of fun.”
Benson said, “Our goals for planning this event were to encourage interest in culture and language to as large an audience as possible.” And one thing is for sure, the week accomplished all of this and more!
In the World of Zoom calls where you can come away from everything thinking, “That’s it…?” World Language Week offered something else. It was social. It was different. It was a ton of fun! Somehow, virtual World Language Week was just as engaging as it would have been in person.
The activities “allow students to have fun and enjoy themselves while participating in these activities,” Nguyen noted. While keeping the social element of the celebration alive was definitely a challenging obstacle for the World Language Week Committee, the event still offered the chance for students to relax, make new friends, and experience culture in a way that can’t be replicated through a textbook.
The World Language Week Committee and World Language Department did it again! This event was out of this world!