Academic teams celebrate season's start with fiesta

NAPPANEE — The NorthWood High School academic teams kicked off the 2011 season with a fiesta at the high school March 5.

By partnering with several local groups and businesses, the high school recreated an environment in which academic team members could experience life in Latin America. Dana Gunter (English as a New Language instructor) and academic team coaches Melinda Sharp (fine arts), Scott Whetstone (social studies), Doug Gerber (math), Justin Bell (science) and Kelly Vorhis (English) guided team members in transforming the cafeteria into the four geographical regions covered by this year’s theme — Mexico, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. The NorthWood High School media center, foreign language department, National Honor Society, business department, music department and Student Council all collaborated in the event, and one of the staff members of the special education department volunteered to DJ.

The academic team members jumped on a virtual 747 and moved from region to region, where various activities ensued and gave each student a taste of the culture, history and flavor of each region. Following these activities, the students were entertained in the auditorium by Elkhart Adult Education students who performed ethnic dances from Bolivia and Mexico wearing authentic costumes of the regions.

The English as a New Language Department along with the Bremen Pancake House, which also specializes in authentic Mexican cuisine, catered the event, featuring such dishes as flautas, burritos, chilies rellenos, arroz Mexicana, refried beans, tamales and nachos and salsa. From Peru and San Salvador cultures, dishes such as mazamorra morada, chichi morada, causa relleno con pollo and pupusas were sampled. The Nappanee Martin's Supermarket provided ethnic soft drinks. Students who attended the event entered a drawing for an opportunity to strike the Piñata while the ENL and Elkhart Adult Education students sang the song that accompanied this activity.

During the 2010 season, NorthWood High School sent four teams to the state competition, where they brought home two runner-up plaques. NorthWood teams are hoping to improve that outcome this year, continuing to immerse themselves in the culture of Latin America is a key component of their strategy.