Middle School News

​​​​​​​Food for Thought: Field Trips Extend Language Learning Beyond the Classroom
Jim Morrison, Director of Student Outreach and Special Projects


Students look at aquarium


Sixth-grade Japanese, Mandarin, and Spanish students and teachers enjoyed a special treat on Monday when they traveled to local markets, restaurants, and parks to put their world language learning into practice. Each class visited neighborhoods aligned with their world language studies to experience the rich, deep, and varied cultural traditions of our local community.

“Our goal for these trips is to use our language learning in the real world and to experience a unique culture in the real world. Through trips and outings such as these, we gain perspective through observing cultural differences,” said Weixa Wan, Nueva’s Middle School Mandarin teacher.

Nueva sixth graders spent the better part of the day at markets, restaurants, and parks engaged in conversation, conducting transactions, and having culinary adventures. Throughout the morning, they worked on scavenger hunts and journaling assignments aimed at rooting them in the moment.

Nueva’s Japanese students began their morning at Suruki Market in San Mateo, where, over the years, the Middle School has established a relationship with the store manager. He prepared special Bento boxes for students and prepared his staff to better accommodate the students’ learning goals. Students then traveled to the Japanese Gardens in San Mateo to enjoy their lunch and explore the park’s aesthetic.  

Students visit Ranch 99

The Mandarin students visited Ranch 99, where they used their developing Mandarin skills to order lunch and chat with locals.

The Spanish classes ventured to La Hacienda and La Morenita Markets in San Mateo before spending time together in San Mateo Central Park.

Middle School Spanish teacher Silvia Salcedo said, “Our goal in taking our sixth-grade classes to a Latinx market is to expose them to a culture that may not be present in their own immediate communities. We ask them to notice the differences between these markets and other big chains. We talk about why people may choose to go to these smaller markets. Students have the chance to practice their Spanish out in the real world and realize how much people appreciate them making an effort to communicate in Spanish.”

With the annual spring trips on the distant horizon, these shorter, local trips play a larger role in the overall sixth-grade curriculum by preparing students to view their time spent off campus with the same focus and commitment to authentic learning found in our classrooms. Weixa added, “Beyond our study of language, the trips provide teachers and students the opportunity to practice traveling safely and respectfully.”

Across the Nueva experience, educators strive to empower students with lifelong skills that can be called upon when they navigate the world beyond the classroom. Reflecting on a moment that stood out from Monday’s trip, Silvia said, “After our visit to the market, we went to San Mateo Central Park, where sixth graders had recess after eating lunch. Because it was Veterans Day, the park was packed with children and families, and as I was walking around, I noticed a group of sixth graders talking to a couple of little girls in Spanish. This field trip gave them confidence in their abilities and helped them realize they can use what they’ve learned so far, and they are more willing to talk to people they usually wouldn’t talk to. It was refreshing to see them interact with people who speak a different language, especially without teachers asking them to do so.”


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