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ESOL Students Tour Colonial St. Augustine

FSDB ESOL students pose for photo on St. George Street in downtown St. Augustine.

During October 2018, ESOL students in the FSDB Blind and Deaf High Schools got together to celebrate Hispanic Heritage month. This year, they decided to connect with their local community and focus on the Spanish history in St. Augustine. The students enjoyed making the connection between the history they learned in school and seeing the living history in the downtown area.

They were guided in the morning by Kathleen McManus, ESOL teacher and certified city guide, who gave a brief background of St. Augustine’s history, while Amanda Villalobos served as the interpreter. The students started at the City Gates and learned how important it was to protect the town and townspeople in Colonial times. They had difficulty imagining life at a time when people had to worry about numerous invasions. When they heard about the burning down of the many wooden structures of the fort and the town, they realized how important it was to build a more substantial fort and wall around the city. Students viewed a replica of the Cubo line next to the City Gates which formed part of that wall, which enabled them to envision St. Augustine as a walled city.

FSDB students sit on benches and listen to presentation.

The students saw a few more sights along St. George Street, including the Old Wooden Schoolhouse and the St. Photios Shrine. They learned about the Minorcans who were brought to the colony to work on the Indigo Plantations in hostile conditions where many died. They also learned that group of survivors eventually made their way to St. Augustine. Among these survivors were Greeks, and this shrine was dedicated to the first colony of Greek people who came to America.

Then they walked to Constitution Plaza and saw the city plan as it was decreed by the King of Spain during colonial times. They could see a resemblance to other city plazas in Latin America. They enjoyed hearing about St. Augustine’s sister city, Aviles, and were impressed to hear that the King of Spain had visited the city. They walked around the plaza, exploring the cannon and cannon balls, the obelisk, and the statue of Ponce de Leon, former governor of Puerto Rico and first one to set foot in Florida in 1513.

After dining at Casa Maya, students toured the Colonial Quarter and had a chance to visit the De Mesa Sanchez House. They were surprised to learn how common house fires were back then and that most kitchens were located outside. Herbs that were common in colonial times were shown to students along with utensils that were used in the kitchen. They saw other rooms as well and got a chance to touch clothing and see furniture from that time.

FSDB blind student climbing watchtower and signing "I Love You"

Later, the students saw tabby and coquina walls; a piece of coquina was passed around for students to touch. Next, they saw the blacksmith and leather shops, and learned how tools and everyday items were made in colonial times. Some climbed the watchtower to see how the military kept an eye out for invaders, and others participated in militia drill reenactments.

As students made their way back to the bus, they saw the fort up close and its unique five pointed star shape. They saw how that shape afforded greater flexibility in the defense of the fort. They also had a chance to see the Sallyport and the moat which, though never filled with water as they imagined, housed animals during times of attack.

Students all chipped in to help each other which made for a wonderful day. Everybody greatly appreciated the welcoming arms of St. Augustine, and developed a new appreciation for its history. Hopefully in the future they will experience greater connections within the community.

By Kathleen McManus, ESOL Teacher, Blind Department


About FSDB The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired, or deafblind. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To learn about eligibility for enrollment or arrange for a campus tour, contact FSDB Parent Services at 904-827-2212 voice or 904-201-4527 videophone. For more information, visit


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