A Trip to Cuba

9 01 2010

For Christmas, Santa brought Floppy Putumayo Presents: Latin Playground English and Spanish Activity Kit:

It includes a workbook of activities, a Putumayo music compilation of Latin music, and a “passport” which kids can use as a workbook to document their travels through the eight Latin American and Spanish-speaking countries in the guide. We’ve begun on this as a social studies unit, and we spent most of the afternoon today visiting Cuba.

Floppy began by personalizing his passport with a photo of himself, his name, birthplace, current residence, and today’s date. Then, we began our journey.

There’s only one song or so per country on the CD, so instead of using that resource, we went to Fidel’s Eyeglasses, a terrific Cuban music blog, to provide our background music for the day.

We made a Cuban dinner of media noche (Cuban sandwich) and natilla (Cuban pudding), both of which were delicious. (We got the recipes here.) We talked about other typical Cuban foods, like Moros y Cristianos, which is a dish we eat regularly around here.

We talked about how and why it is illegal for us to visit Cuba, and we looked at photographs (courtesy Google images) of the Callejon de Hamel, where people from Havana go on the weekends to dance and play music. We searched YouTube for videos of various types of Cuban music: son, rumba, guajira, and timba. We talked about Spanish colonization of Cuba, and how the African slave trade affected the culture and the music in Cuba. We talked about Cuba’s agricultural products, like sugar. We learned a few Cuban Spanish words (from the Putumayo book), such as Camello (it means camel, and is the word for the Havana bus, which is a huge pink trailer with two humps).

We looked at YouTube videos illustrating typical Cuban instruments, such as the Conga, the Corneta China, the Tres, and the Clave. We talked about Cuban holidays. We looked at pictures of the Bee Hummingbird and the Wahoo Fish.

Next, we made Carnival masks, using these Mardi Gras mask templates printed off and glued to cardboard. We decorated them with plastic jewels, glitter, and markers, and then had a carnival parade and dance through the house to Cuban music.

Floppy finished the evening filling in his passport with an account of his “trip” — cut out pictures of a map of Cuba, the Cuban flag, and Cuban instruments (thank you again Google images), as well as a list of the words he’d learned, a drawing of his Carnival mask, and a list of facts learned about Cuba, with wobbly spelling.

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