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CHCCS Students Excel at Learning through Languages Symposium

On Friday, February 1, the FedEx Global Education Center on UNC campus hosted nearly 100 high school world language students from across North Carolina for the Learning through Languages Research Symposium. Ten of the 36 teams in competition came from Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, and although they didn’t sweep the awards entirely, they made a grand showing. As Chapel Hill High School (CHHS) French teacher, Christen Campbell, said, “It seemed that with every award announcement, it was a team from one of our high schools. We brought home some hardware!”

Learning through Languages 2019 Co-sponsored by UNC and Duke University, the Symposium is now in its fourth year, an event that seeks to challenge advanced world language students with a competition that demands excellence in both written and oral research skills. Deliver an off the cuff analysis on the environmental impact of urbanization in Dakar, speaking only in French? Answer judges’ questions in Spanish regarding the predominance of HIV infection among women in South Africa? No problem for these students. This is what these students prepared for in teams of two or three, and the rigorous expectations seemed to delight them all.

“Reflecting on the Symposium, I am really grateful I got to work on this project with this group of people,” said East Chapel Hill High (ECHHS) student, Michelle Pajak. “I got to practice writing and speaking French, and although it was challenging researching and learning about our topic in a second language, I think we learned a lot and it was overall really fun. The Symposium itself was really great because we got to present our project and see what everyone else had made, which I found very interesting.

The guidelines for the competition required students to use APA style instead of the more familiar MLA. Each project had three components: the written paper, the oral presentation, and the project visual. Students chose their current events topics from one of six strands:  Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and Russia and East Europe. The contest design promotes research methodology, technology literacy, and critical thinking and addresses the Department of Public Instruction’s Essential Standards for the study of World Languages. Judges for the competition were professors or graduate students from UNC and Duke.

Julia Conner and Dani Kaufman-Sedano represented Carrboro High School (CHS) for the second year. Last year they won an Honorable Mention for Best Scholarship with their project on the” Rohingya Crisis as Ethnic Cleansing.” This year they elevated their performance with the Best Overall Research Project on Africa, a study of the social factors impacting the incidence of HIV among South African women. They won in two other categories as well. Kaufman-Sedano said, “Learning Through Languages gave me the opportunity to improve my Spanish while focusing on a topic that I had been introduced to when visiting South Africa this past summer, letting me further educate both myself and others, rather than leaving my experiences behind.”

Conner added, “Participating in Learning Through Languages has furthered my appreciation for the capacity of language and scholarship in a global context. It’s exciting because every time you work on the project, with every new word learned, you can feel yourself improving. ”Their teacher, Amy Olsen, said proudly, “Their work speaks for itself.”

According to a February 6 UNC Global news article about the Symposium, “Teachers have reported that the greatest benefits of their students’ participation in the symposium include using oral and written expression in a practical, content-based project; engaging in global studies and learning about the world; and participating in cooperative learning.”

Campbell said the inspiring performances among CHCCS students trace back to the excellence of the district’s elementary and middle school language instruction. "It's a reflection of the high quality foreign language education our students are receiving in the district. The CHCCS foreign language teachers are really the cream of the crop, beginning in elementary school with Shawna Catlet, to middle school with Robin McMahon and then to high school with the rest of us. Without this sequential chain of amazing teachers, we wouldn't be able to secure such high results." Three of the Spanish teachers (Olsen at CHS and Justin Seifts and Sophie Bauers at ECHHS) with teams in the Symposium are former students of legendary CHHS Spanish teacher, Ken Stewart.

French students Learning T Languages When asked to comment on the experience, many of the CHCCS students emphasized the fun and excitement. Griffin Motley, one of Campbell’s French students, said, “I had a fantastic time at the Symposium last Friday. It was very interesting to be able to see the wide variety of cultures that NC students are interested in, and to be immersed in that atmosphere.”

His teammate, Hannah Wander, said, “It was an awesome opportunity to be able to present in front of the judges and with fellow language students. I loved the collection of many different languages; it was wonderful to have such a diversity of projects! Thank you for the opportunity!”

Faith Joo, a Spanish student at ECHHS, said, "It is not often that high school students get to conduct research about climate change in Asia in the Spanish language - the LTL Research Symposium really enabled me to analyze, discuss, and research in depth about my topic, all in another language. It was an opportunity for me to synthesize all that I have learned about the Spanish language and use it in a professional setting, and I am honored to have been part of such experience."

"Language education often gets overlooked since we are ‘electives,’” Campbell said. “However, we are insuring a more reflective and understanding future generation. Learning culture requires students to learn more about the unique identities around the world. My hope is that CHCCS will continue to expand opportunities for students to learn languages."

Of the 26 awards given at the end of the symposium, 14 went to CHCCS teams.

Best Overall Research Project on Africa: Julia Conner and Dani Kaufman-Sedano of Carrboro High School, teacher Amy Olsen, for “VIH en Sudáfrica: Los factores sociales que causan a mujeres a ser las víctimas principals.”

Honorable Mention of Research Project on Africa: Julia Elliott, Ellie Koenig, and Kira Branch of Chapel Hill High School, teacher Christen Campbell, for “Les Effets Environnementaux d’Urbanisation à Dakar.”

Best Overall Research Project on Asia: Regan Andringa-Seed, Sophie Buchheit, and Faith Joo of East Chapel Hill School, teacher Justin Seifts, for “Crece la penetración del cambio climático: Las implicaciones para la gente pobre de Asia.”

Best Overall Research Project on Europe: Griffin Motley, Hannah Wander, and Emma Huang of Chapel Hill High School, teacher Christen Campbell, for “Le Gaspillage Alimentaire en France.”

Honorable Mention of Research Project on Europe: Isabel Mahon and Gisele Scimone of East Chapel Hill High School, teacher Valerie Huet, for “La Spaccatura della Sicilia.”

*Best Overall Research Project on Russia and East Europe: Michelle Pajak, Evelyn LeDuc, and Annika Narbut of East Chapel Hill High School, teacher Molly Brooks, for “La guerre en l’Ukraine et les effets sur les citoyens.”

Best Use of Written and Oral Language (Intermediate): Isabel Mahon and Gisele Scimone of East Chapel Hill High School, teacher Valerie Huet, for “La Spaccatura della Sicilia.”

Best Scholarship (Intermediate): Michelle Pajak, Evelyn LeDuc, and Annika Narbut of East Chapel Hill High School, teacher Molly Brooks, for “La guerre en l’Ukraine et les effets sur les citoyens.”

Honorable Mention of Best Scholarship (Intermediate): Isabel Mahon and Gisele Scimone of East Chapel Hill High School, teacher Valerie Huet, for “La Spaccatura della Sicilia.”

Honorable Mention of Most Innovative and Illustrative Project Visual (Intermediate): Michelle Pajak, Evelyn LeDuc, and Annika Narbut of East Chapel Hill High School, teacher Molly Brooks, for “La guerre en l’Ukraine et les effets sur les citoyens.”

Best Use of Written and Oral Language (Advanced): Julia Conner and Dani Kaufman-Sedano of Carrboro High School, teacher Amy Olsen, for “VIH en Sudáfrica: Los factores sociales que causan a mujeres a ser las víctimas principals

Best Scholarship (Advanced): Julia Conner and Dani Kaufman-Sedano of Carrboro High School, teacher Amy Olsen, for “VIH en Sudáfrica: Los factores sociales que causan a mujeres a ser las víctimas principals.”

Honorable Mention of Most Innovative and Illustrative Project Visual (Advanced): Regan Andringa-Seed, Sophie Buchheit, and Faith Joo of East Chapel Hill School, teacher Justin Seifts, for “Crece la penetración del cambio climático: Las implicaciones para la gente pobre de Asia.”

STUDENTS CHOICE:

Honorable Mention of Student’s Choice Award: Griffin Motley, Hannah Wander, and Emma Huang of Chapel Hill High School, teacher Christen Campbell, for “Le Gaspillage Alimentaire en France.”