Spanish students learn by doing

PLYMOUTH — Mila's Mini Market was inundated by high school students Wednesday as Plymouth Spanish teacher Rick Button brought his classes in for a taste of Mexican food and culture.
The students ordered lunch in Spanish from Evelin Vargas, daughter of Mila's owners Mar and Celia Vargas. Evelin encouraged the students to follow their teacher's instructions to use their Spanish vocabulary, and wouldn't write down a request given to her in English. Instead, she waited for the student to find the Spanish words for what he wanted to say.
"I'm getting them to use their Spanish any way, any how," said Button, adding that he had taught all three of the Vargas' children when they were in school.
"(Ordering in Spanish) will build confidence in their speaking ability and show them that the language is a very useful tool to have."
Since school budgets for field trips are tight, Button thought that visiting Mila's — which is within walking distance from the school — would be a good opportunity for hands-on learning. The trip had the added benefit of supporting a local restaurant, as the students were responsible for purchasing their own meals.
"We are currently working on a chapter on food, so (this trip) gives students a chance to use their vocabulary words and grammar concepts," said Button.
He added that the grocery store also in Mila's allows the students to learn about more than just food. After eating, students went through the store looking for items on a list given to them by Button. Once they found the items, they had to use Spanish to ask how much they cost, or to find out other details.
The lunch crowd was the second class to visit that day — Button's morning Spanish class had dropped by for a similar experience around 8 a.m.
The Vargas family had chips and appetizers waiting when the students walked in the door, and worked together to take orders and deliver the meal as quickly as possible. Although hesitant at first, students confidently used the skills they had been working on throughout the year to navigate the menu and to later locate scavenger hunt items.