Alpaca Antics for ELL Students

Alpacas watching the student visitors.

By Sidney Hines, Features Editor

The Niles West ELL students had the opportunity to experience life on an alpaca farm on Wednesday, Sept. 26th. The students journeyed to two farms: Rivendell Alpacas and the Waldron Grove Alpacas in Elgin, Illinois. This unique trip was sponsored by ELL teacher Gevik Anbarchian whose students are studying life on a family farm and journalistic writing.

The inspiration behind the alpaca trip stemmed from Anbarchian’s summer antics, in which his family went to an alpaca farm in Maine. Since then, Anbarchian decided to sponsor an alpaca at one of the only 2 alpaca farms in the state, Rivendell Alpacas.

“This past summer, my family and I went to Massachusetts and to Maine on a road trip. When we were in Maine, we were in a town and were looking for something to do with our kids. We saw an alpaca farm, so we went there. I had never seen an alpaca before, and we instantly liked them. When we came back home, I thought it would be fun if we went to another alpaca farm. We came to Rivendell Alpacas in July, and we became sponsors.” Anbarachian said.

Anbarchian and his family have since visited their alpaca many times, which led to Anbarchian’s theme for his students’ editorials and features: alpacas.

“I wanted to my students to learn how to write editorials, and also features,” he said. “I was looking for a topic, but I wanted it to be something interactive, not just your average 5 paragraph essay. So I thought: “What about alpacas?” Because then we could visit, do some library research, and learn how to write features.”

Alongside learning how to write editorials and features, Anbarchian hopes to show and immerse his students in a dying American culture: family farms.

“I want them to be exposed to a part of American culture that’s dying, and that’s family farms. There’s no way that this farm [Rivendell Alpacas], can survive much longer. I wanted them to see that and meet American people that they don’t see every day, more rural people because you hear about it a lot politically.” Anbarchian explained.

Anbarchian hopes that both this trip and unit expose his students to all the work put into journalistic writing.

“Learning how to research, how to interview, how to take notes and turn it into an article is what we’re trying to learn,” he said. “In the classroom, we’re looking at articles and the ingredients of a good one.”

Many students enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the animals and learn more about life on a farm.

“I went on the trip because I was wondering about alpacas and farms. I was curious about the history of farmers, and wanted to learn more about alpacas,” freshman Ayat Alsaad said. “I wanted to learn how they [alpacas] live, where they live, what they need to survive, and other interesting facts. It’s interesting to be on an alpaca farm, but it’s not different than what I expected.”

Both the interest in alpacas and farm life echoed throughout the students on the trip.

“I went on the trip so I could learn about alpacas and write about it. I’m hoping to learn more about fleece and how it is used to make lots of stuff, like shirts, purses, etc. I’m going to focus on alpaca fleece and it’s many uses in my assignment.” freshman Angelo Pagdanganan said.

After a day filled with alpacas, farms, and ice cream, the students enjoyed the bus ride back and an opportunity to get off their feet. Because of this unique field trip opportunity, the students were exposed to alpacas and life on a farm, which are two experiences that they will never forget.