Innovation at Notre Dame High School goes far beyond the latest technology or software program. It is a culture, a way of thinking, that exemplifies a collaborative and transformative learning community. Bayard Nielsen’s Spanish III Honors project, Day Worker Stories, is a prime example.
After a semester of design thinking, peer review and experiential learning, students use public transportation to visit the Day Workers Center in Mountain View where they connect on a very personal level with the men and women who make use of its services. They conduct interviews in Spanish, learn their stories and, through this immersive experience, begin to understand the journeys the day workers have taken to get to America.
Participating in this project allows students to interact with others outside their normal bubbles, exposing them to new backgrounds, perspectives and stories. “Empathy must include standing in solidarity with others in order to better understand them and their perspectives,” explains Señor Nielsen. “Only through understanding other people and seeing them as individuals rather than groups can we truly incorporate their needs into policy-making.”
After spending the day at the center, students use the remainder of the year to create a compilation of biographies, superhero comics and multimedia clips. The stories focus on the lives of the day workers, describing their identity, culture, beliefs and hopes for the future in order to provide insight into the many different stories and backgrounds that shape the local community. The day workers are portrayed as superheroes to combat negative stereotypes often associated with day workers and immigrants. The final project includes both Spanish and English versions so it can be shared with a wider audience.
Señor Nielsen’s student project was recently recognized as a globally engaged program by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) at their national convention in Nashville. “The honor for the program attests to the breadth and depth, the impact, and the integration into curriculum of this community-engagement experience as well as the quality of the community partner relationship,” said Beckie Rankin, chair of the ACTFL’s Global Engagement Committee.