Jysmiriamnie Crespo reads and plays games on an iPad during the ESL Summer Camp Tuesday at Nelson Elementary. (Brad Puckett / American Press)
ESL lead teacher Monique Partin reads to students enrolled in the summer camp at Nelson Elementary. The camp teaches the students better English skills in a fun environment. (Brad Puckett / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 2:42 PM
Though the rest of the Calcasieu Parish schools are on summer vacation, A.A. Nelson Elementary is a flurry of activity.
In one room, students dressed in police and firemen costumes perform for the class. In another, students work quietly on iPads and computers, playing educational games. Teachers work one-on-one with students, going over worksheets and reinforcing lessons.
All these activities are part of the two-week summer camp at Nelson Elementary for English as a second language students in Calcasieu Parish. Nelson is the primary ESL facility for the district.
The 23 students at the camp represent eight countries, including Puerto Rico, and collectively speak four different languages.
“American students read to learn in higher grades, but the English-language learners must learn to read in order to understand academic content,” said Gerry Blalock, an ESL middle school teacher and a camp organizer.
The camp kicked off last week with the largest enrollment it has seen. This is the third year the summer camp has been around. It is open to all ESL students free of charge.
This year’s camp focused on two themes. The first week was about “community helpers,” and this week is about the history and culture of Louisiana.
Last week, the camp’s teachers invited various community helpers to speak about their jobs. Michelle Aucoin, a dental hygienist with Robinson Dental Group; Edward Curol, a deputy and pilot with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office; John Martin, a sheriff’s detective; and veterinarian Dr. Sherwood Gill shared their experiences with the students.
The campers also took several field trips. On a field trip to Central Library, they obtained their first U.S. library cards. Other trips included Veterans Memorial Park, Cameron Parish Wildlife Refuge, and Holly Beach.
Blalock works with the middle school students at the camp. Her students aid the younger students and help create their lessons and presentations.
“We are talking about community helpers like doctors,” said Catherine Rodriguez, who will enter the seventh grade at Moss Bluff Middle School next year. “Right now we are learning about animals in Louisiana like alligators, pelicans, nutria.”
Rodriguez and the six other middle school students were working together Tuesday to create a slideshow about Louisiana’s native animals. They planned to present the slideshow to the elementary school students later in the day.
“It’s about having fun and learning at the same time,” Rodriguez said about the camp.
The middle school students and Blalock also worked together to write a play about different community helpers in the area. The elementary school students will star in the play and perform it for their parents Friday.
ESL student Joshoa Canales will play a fireman in the community helpers play. “The fireman is a community helper and my favorite one,” Canales said. “This is my first time in a play.”
Canales, who will enter the second grade at Frasch Elementary, is attending the camp with his two older sisters. Both of his sisters are in middle school and are helping Canales and his classmates with the play.
Soon-to-be fourth-grader Alise Huang will play a chef in the group’s play. “I feel good about the play. Maybe my aunt and my mom will come to see it,” Huang said.
The goal of Calcasieu’s ESL program and of the camp is to not only teach the students English, but to help them assimilate into American culture and into regular education classrooms. Calcasieu Parish has about 300 students in the ESL program.
“We change up the program every year to meet the needs of the kids and make it fun,” Blalock said. “This year has been the best. It’s just been wonderful.”