Galapagos ELL Project
Curriculum Development is an important component of the Galapagos Internet Project. Willamette University Graduate School of Education student teachers develop, teach, and assess curriculum units which incorporate best practices in the teaching of writing and reading, use technology to promote global awareness and understanding across cultures, and support ELL learners in meeting Oregon state standards.
The project is a curriculum initiative between Oregon teachers at elementary, middle and high school levels and a K-10 school on the Galapagos Island of San Cristobal. For the past three years, teachers in Oregon and Ecuador have co-developed and taught five-week units. During the units, their two classes of bilingual students became acquainted with each other and their two regions of the world, researched unique animals of each area, and learned together about environmental issues affecting the animal habitats in each area.
Through a series of email exchanges, students provided feedback to each other, asked questions, and discussed the similarities and differences in the environmental challenges of their regions.
Two Willamette student teachers that have participated in this program
Lorie Bickford and Celeste Brooks
- Lorie Bickford and supervising teacher Brad Edmunds had two advanced Spanish classes participate. The students were paired up with pen pals and were given specific topics to write aboutsuch as typical activities and information about their communities. They wrote in Spanish and English so that both classes could practice the target language that they were trying to learn.
- At West Salem High School, student teacher Celeste Brooks and supervising teacher Kara McGuirk participated with an ESL Science Class. The focus of this Internet exchange was on sharing information about the animals that are unique to each environment. McGuirk and Brooks observed that their students were very engaged in learning about the people and environment in the Galapagos. Students also seemed to be more accountable for researching their native animal because they were responsible for conveying this information to someone else.
Besides student engagement and accountability, the Internet Project provided many additional benefits. Teacher Lorie Bickford says that this great opportunity allowed students to experience a different culture not only outside of the classroom, but outside of their own country as well and to learn about how technology can open up the world.
Unfortunately, the classes also ran into some problems. These problems were mostly related to technology difficulties. For example, some of the U. S. students were very disappointed when they did not receive a letter from their pen pals. This became a learning experience, however, as students learned patience and understanding.
A stronger technology link would also help facilitate communication between the American and Ecuadorian teachers. This would make it easier for the teachers to establish clearer objectives and clearer visions of expected outcomes.
The Internet Project is an exciting opportunity for Oregon and Ecuadorian students to connect with each other and to realize that the similarities they share are greater than their differences.