Students spoke Spanish with each other as they worked on a group project during Madison Heights Elementary School’s new Spanish Immersion Summer Camp for students in first through fourth grade.
Groups of two to three students worked together drawing with markers on paper designs for a tall structures that could support a golf ball about ¼ the way from the top, then they worked together asking questions and answering them in Spanish as they built the tower from pipe cleaners, straws and paper clips.
“I think it’s important for the students to be in here in summer camp, because they’re practicing their Spanish, they’re interacting with each other, they’re having fun, and they’re enjoying the camp,” said Karina Rivas Aguilar, a teacher at the Spanish Immersion Summer Camp.
Video by Tabitha Bland/ AZEdNews: See what Spanish Immersion Summer Camp is like at Madison Heights Elementary School
About 40 students a week are enrolled in the Madison Heights Elementary’s first Spanish Immersion Summer Camp that has student to teacher ratio of 15 to 1, said Casey George, director for signature programs for Madison Elementary School District.
The Spanish Immersion Summer Camp was originally planned to start five years ago, but was delayed by many things including the COVID pandemic, George said.
The initial plan was to share with the community the Spanish Immersion program Madison Heights Elementary School provides for students during the school year, but the school year program reached full enrollment in those five years and there’s now a wait list, George said.
During the school year Spanish immersion program, students learn social studies, science and language arts in Spanish with a Spanish Immersion teacher, then learn reading, writing and math in English with another teacher, George said. During the day the students will switch between teachers for instruction.
Also, students will start one morning receiving English instruction and the next morning receiving Spanish instruction. The program is designed for students who want to learn to speak Spanish fluently, and they are truly immersed in the language, George said.
So, the Spanish Immersion Summer Camp transitioned into an effort to prevent students from having three months where they didn’t use their Spanish Language skills, George said.
“Many of our parents have requested such a camp so students can practice their Spanish during the summer,” George said. “We also opened the program to families outside of our district to show the type of Spanish Immersion program we offer.”
Families could choose to send their child for one week or for the full three weeks of Spanish Immersion Summer Camp of the fee-based program.
During camp, students do hands-on projects that culminate in an activity at the end of the week, George said.
“Students do hands-on activities in the classroom, play outside and enjoy our game room where all the games are in Spanish, including our Nintendo video games,” George said.
“The kids are motivated because they get to play. The only thing we request is that they use their Spanish language,” George said. “They get to use their Spanish language, retain their Spanish language that they’ve learned the previous year, it helps them get ready for the next year, and they get to have fun at this camp.”
Students played together with blocks and Spanish-language board games and video games in the game room, chatting with each other in Spanish, answering their teachers’ questions in Spanish and occasionally cheering when they did well at their games.
“Mi nombre es Tiffany,” said Tiffany, a student in the Spanish Immersion Summer Camp.
When asked what her favorite things to do at camp are, Tiffany said “Haciendo actividades.” (Doing activities outside)
Tiffany also said she likes to “jugando (play) en el game room” and her favorite game to play is the one where you row the boat and that she speaks Spanish sometimes when she’s playing it.
“The Summer Spanish Camp is more about students having fun and engaging with each other in the Spanish language rather than purely academic,” George said.
Avery, a student in the Spanish Immersion Summer camp, said what she liked best about the program is “all the nice teachers.”
Tivoli said she likes to play in game room, and she enjoys the game when you row the boat.
“Since I go to this school, it’s really fun because I get to see so many of my friends,” Avery said.
“I like the game room and the classroom, because you get to do experiments and things like design your own rocket and design things that are really fun,” Avery said.
Parents are surveyed at the end of each week, and the program has received excellent reviews, George said.
“The parents love it. They love the fact that their kids come home with hands on projects,” George said. “The kids are telling us that they love especially the game room, but they love all the hands-on stuff too.”
“These children really loved our program. We have several families asking if they can sign up for more days,” George said.