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the bolles school
Bolivia Focus of Spanish Students’ Alternative Assessment
carrie ezzell class

This month, Carrie Ezzell’s 4- and 5-level Spanish language classes participated in an engaging study of two major Bolivian themes: exploitation of Latin American indigenous populations like Bolivia’s Quechua and Aymara people, and water scarcity in Bolivia. The language and cultural study culminated in a class video production, a Zoom interview with a Bolivian travel guide and an in-class composition. Ezzell describes the alternative assessment as one of the best classroom lessons she has experienced in her 20 years of teaching.

“I wish it could have gone on longer,” Ezzell said, describing the lesson’s high point – an online dialogue with the Bolivian guide.

The study began with two days developing a base of knowledge and Spanish vocabulary around the two Bolivian themes. Students then watched an award-winning short film called “Abuelo Grillo,” to acquaint them with Bolvia’s relationship with water and how transitional groups have exploited Volivia and other Latin American countries over the centuries. Next, classes watched the full-length film “Tambien la Lluvia,” which is set in Bolivia during the 2000 water protests of Cochabamba.

“Students reacted with surprise and dismay at the struggle many Bolivian people faced during this time to simply bring small amounts of clean water into their homes,” Ezzell said. A FlipGrid classroom discussion and exhibition of their observations ensued, adding richly to their perspective of the film. “I was really proud of how they were able to incorporate lessons learned previously, not to mention the fluency and comprehension of their questions and response.”

The last part of the lesson was a class video production. Students collaborated on a video piece for National Geographic and G Adventures guide Vladimir Chumacero, whom Ezzell met during a 2019 Ottenstroer grant expedition. After sending the video to Chumacero, students enjoyed a Zoom visit with him from their Bolles classroom. He answered their questions and shared additional insight into the events of 2000 and the daily lives of Bolivian people.

“His genuine and open nature as well as the kids’ curiosity and interest made for a very special hour,” Ezzell said. The lesson ended with an in-class composition using their experiences, interactions and reflections to summarize the lesson.

Ezzell is keen on Bolivian and Peruvian culture because it was the focus of her 2019 Ottenstroer grant – and may one day inspire a faculty-led travel opportunity. The Duane Ottenstroer Excellence in Teaching Fellowships are intended to identify and reward excellent teaching and foster innovation in the classroom at Bolles by enabling recipients to pursue a project that will enhance their teaching. The awards are announced annually and are open to all fulltime teacher at Bolles.

Ezzell applied her Ottentsroer Award to an educational experience in Peru and Bolivia to study the historical and cultural legacy of the Incas and the modern-day cultural identities of the Quechua peoples. Her itinerary included a visit to the ancient Inca capital, Cuzco, and the ruins of Machu Picchu. She also studied the natural beauty and abundance of wildlife of the Amazon, an area that always piques her students’ interest.

“My students now have the benefit of my pictures, my stories and a life ultimately changed by the experience,” Ezzell said in her grant report. “One day, I would love to lead a group of Bolles students on a similar journey, and I believe this experience will better prepare me for that day.”