Galapagos ELL Project
One of the highlights of the Oregon Writing Project is the opportunity for teachers to travel to the Galapagos Islands in order to continue their professional development in the areas of literacy studies and acquisition strategies for English Language Learners. Selected teachers travel to the island of San Cristobal where they teach an integrated English and science curriculum unit and study Spanish. The goals of the project are:
- To provide Oregon Writing Project teachers with effective strategies for developing literacy skills with their students who are learning English as a second language.
- To provide Oregon Writing Project teachers with Spanish language skills focused on improving communication with students whose first language is Spanish.
Benefits and beyond
But the benefits that the teacher receives go beyond the stated goals. The immersion experience that the participants undergo is a complete reversal of what they might have expected. With the help of the Writing Project grant, teachers are given the opportunity to discover what it really means to be in the minority. Living in a country where you don't know the language or the customs forces you to develop a broader world view and to see the similarities that exist between all cultures. You also develop a greater appreciation of the unique beauties of each culture, and an appreciation of the difficulties faced by those who do not speak the predominant language. As Karen Hamlin, director, will attest, it can be both frustrating and rewarding to buy a rubber stopper for the sink!
The group that traveled to San Cristobal in July 2005 particularly enjoyed the cultural night that was held in the town each Friday. At this event, many families and friends would gather in the town square, right next to the beach and the sea lions (lobos), to hear traditional songs and to watch traditional dances. This festival brought the entire community together and celebrated their uniqueness. It also promoted the traditions among the children, who were among the performers.
Teachers are taught how to shop, how to hold simple conversations, and how to effectively get by.
After a few days of dealing with the frustration of the language barrier, participants are more than eager for their Spanish classes to begin. These classes were held every weekday with our teacher Paulina. Paulina adapts each lesson to the needs of the moment. Teachers are taught how to shop, how to hold simple conversations, and how to effectively get by. Spanish grammar and its differences with English are also covered. These Spanish classes not only help the teachers to communicate more effectively with their students, but it also helps the participants to appreciate the frustrations that are second-language learners experience on a daily basis.
This appreciation translates directly into better teaching. Participants learn the tools necessary to better help our own ELL students comprehend and apply the curriculum that is taught in American schools. There is a heavy emphasis on stating ideas in multiple ways so that students learn new vocabulary and sentence structure. This repetition also reinforces the content.
Living and studying in the Galapagos
- teachers gain a more intensive awareness of ecological and environmental issues
- this unique landscape gives teachers the opportunity to study first hand the issues that threaten this native land
- teachers learn about the conflict being faced between expanding tourism and conservation. The sea cucumber trade is also discussed.
- teachers leave the Galapagos with the desire and skills to transfer this kind of awareness to their own environment.
Finally, teachers get the opportunity to experience exploratory learning first hand. Through hiking, snorkeling, eating, sharing, talking and visiting such sites as the first coffee plantation in the islands, a natural galapaguera, the Charles Darwin center, and other islands, teachers bring back a wealth of experiences and ideas to share with their students.
Teachers return from the Galapagos excited about teaching, excited about helping their English Language Learners, excited about speaking Spanish, and excited about the program.