The New Paltz Central School District (NPCSD) English as a New Language (ENL) Summer Academy students spent the summer around ponds, plants and animals, discussing their discoveries.
This year’s ENL Academy welcomed students with a diversity of experiences as well, including ones who have moved from another country, those who have relocated several times and “heritage” students who were born in the US but who speak another language (or languages) at home. In total, 25 students ranging from Kindergarten to Grade 10 were immersed in learning this summer through the program. Also welcomed were students with multiple reading or learning disorders, mental health issues, political refugee status, social or emotional anxiety, trauma and more.
Designed to reinforce evolving literacy skills gained during the regular school year, the ENL Summer Academy takes an interdisciplinary approach to supporting language skills by focusing on science. During this summer’s four-week program, the ENL classes took field trips to local farms or nature preserves, expanding the program’s classroom reading and writing about nature experientially, while also enabling relationship-building. It was not uncommon to see older students guiding the younger ones, even those from very different backgrounds.
A day in Amy Chapman’s ENL class for Grades 1-2 included morning work and a meeting, a science lesson or experiment, reading groups, outdoor recess, work in the Lenape School garden and then writing or research. Chapman believes approaching literacy through science facilitates learning the academic vocabulary needed for all skill levels to meet milestones. “Plants are something you can teach at a basic level or a more advanced level,” said Chapman. “The students are motivated to learn because they see it in different contexts and retain the content more easily.”
The program’s classrooms received daily visits from NPCSD’s bilingual social worker Angela Perez for social/emotional learning (SEL) lessons centered on self-esteem, promoting kindness and self-acceptance. The students played board games and learned “soft” skills focused on social skills such as taking turns, communication skills and proper social interactions. Perez led discussions exploring the students’ similarities and differences within their cultures and also shared videos of authors from various countries and cultures reading their books aloud.