MFL: Year 8 Spanish Trip to Cantabria

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Pupils from Bede's Prep Year 8 Spanish sets flew to Bilbao for six days of culture and adventure on September 30 2013.

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This was the second visit by Bede's to the small town of Comillas on the northern Spanish coast, and there were subtle changes to our programme this year. This year our nine hours of tailored tuition across three days took place in the heart of this beautiful old town.

One group had their lessons in the new Town Hall with Oscar, while the other went to the original Town Hall and were taught by Ana. Both teachers helped pupils to reinforce and extend their knowledge of the Spanish language, using lively techniques and tasks, and, once again, the lessons were a significant feature of a highly successful trip. The venue this year enabled pupils to take their new words and phrases out into the town and have immediate, real-life experiences!

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Outside the classroom, pupils enjoyed learning about the early inhabitants of the region of Cantabria and saw the stunning cave art that they produced at the caves of Altamira, followed by workshops in the arts of spear-throwing and fire-making led, in Spanish, by a local expert in prehistory.

They had already visited the Parliament of Cantabria, situated in another historic building in Santander, and there had the privilege of observing a meeting of representatives and listening to some impassioned debates. During the tour of the buildings, they began to realise the importance of regional autonomy for the Spanish people and were shown the flags that each region proudly displays.

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A key objective of the trip is to forge links with Spanish school children and this year we met the pupils of Antonio Robinet school in nearby Vioño. High energy exchanges in Spanish and English took place as pupils got to know one another, before mixed teams of Spanish and English pupils either played football or learnt to dance flamenco. A second visit to the school later in the week saw the pupils work together in mixed groups to create written presentations on a theme, both in Spanish or English. This afternoon of careful thought was followed by a fun trip to the beach in the late afternoon sunshine;  there were plenty of requests to stay longer or come back the following day!

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José Herrera is the director of our tour operator 'Links into Spanish'. Each year he works hard to design a programme that is just right for our pupils' range of interests and talents. Just as he did last year, he accompanied us on all our visits and activities and once again the programme included the very popular Treasure Hunt. The children run from one clue to the next, diving into shops or stopping passers-by to complete a task in Spanish. The clues are written in language that is accessible but that stretches their knowledge at the same time, and the tension mounts as pairs come closer to finding the treasure. It's a fantastic photo opportunity as the pupils are totally oblivious to everything except for the ultimate goal!

Our final full day was spent at Cabárceno, a huge natural park that is home to a hundred animal species from five continents living in semi-free conditions. En route around the park, we visited the newest member of the park, a 3 day-old rhino, and learnt some fascinating rhino facts, all in Spanish.

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A dramatic bird of prey display was, perhaps, the highlight of the visit, although some of us were transfixed watching the antics of a baby gorilla.

We finished our visit to this stunning part of Spain the following morning with a visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, where we compared two enormous works of art and discovered several perceptive art critics amongst the group. It was a further example of the enthusiasm that a trip like this inspires in our twelve and thirteen year olds, and why, as teachers, we value so highly the opportunity to take them on the journey into an immersion setting. As they interact with the people, culture, art, history and politics of a country, we witness a massive leap in learning take place and, perhaps the best result of all, a fantastic boost to their confidence as language learners.

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Louise Galletly

Head of MFL