Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Intercambios de las Artes - Part of Our Bicultural Mission

By Steve Lanciano

Our bicultural mission sets some pretty lofty goals. Not only do we want to educate students who can read and write in Spanish and English, but we also want them to be able to operate in either culture. It is the latter which inspired me to initiate “Intercambios de las Artes.”

In December of 2014, I met with Dr. Claudia Salazar, the director of Instituto Caldas, a prestigious K-12 school in Bucaramanga, Colombia. My purpose was to explore how our schools could partner in the areas of language and the arts. Dr. Salazar was not interested in traditional “pen pal” programs because that kind of strategy was already fully implemented at Instituto Caldas. However, the idea of cultural exchanges through Skype generated huge interest. Before long, I had met the entire arts staff at Instituto Caldas and had a few projects in the works.

Our first “Intercambio” of the year was an introductory cultural exchange. Selected 8th graders from both schools made mini-presentations for the first part of the exchange.  When the formal presentations were over, Mr. Torres, our 7th/8th grade Spanish teacher did a great job getting the students to come out of their shells and ask questions that really matter to them (ex: “What is the cell phone policy at your school?”) Our second “Intercambio” was an exchange concert. Mrs. Pomales’ 4th grade homeroom played two American songs and the Caldas students played two Colombian songs.

Both Intercambios were highly elevating experiences which provided students authentic motivation to operate in another culture. Students used words like “wonderful” to describe the experience how many 4th graders have you ever heard use that word to describe a school activity?

Between the face-to-face meetings with Dr. Salazar and a subsequent Skype mini-conference for administrators, we established some long-range and short-range goals.  The long-range stuff was all pie-in-the-sky talk about international student teachers, student exchanges, etc. But, I was most excited about the cheap, short, manageable “Intercambios” because I knew they could be done in less than a year.

Now that we’ve begun to build trust between our schools, I believe the sky is the limit. We can begin to affect the lives of even more students in positive ways. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even host our very own delegation of Colombian students and teachers in the future. How’s that for bicultural?

Here is my favorite link:

Here is another link:

Steve Lanciano is Arts Coordinator for ASPIRA of PA Schools. Over his 8 years at with the organization, he developed the Corps Approach, wrote 27 funded DonorsChoose projects, and popped out 3 kids (with a little bit of help from his wife). He's also helped produce three Broadway-style musicals and won first place with his band at the 2014 Puerto Rican Day Parade in Philadelphia.