Using Nature as a Springboard to Support English Language Learning

Fourth and fifth grade students identify the butterfly anatomy structure and function.

Out-of-school (OST) programs in the San Benito school district and the afterschool teachers are committed to creating a safe, diverse, and welcoming environment. The goal of this program is to provide innovative activities which are different from the regular school day. English as a second language (ESL) students and non ESL students learn together and create a common bond.

This deep South Texas school district is full of opportunities for students to be engaged in nature and all its wonders. At the Dr. Raul Garza Elementary School in San Benito, both bilingual and monolingual English language students in second through fifth grades discover why a plethora of butterflies methodically fly south to Mexico. These projects purposely engage EL students in fun socially dynamic activities where they can practice their English language skills and incorporate their prior knowledge to learn more about this magical and wonderful age old migration of these amazing fragile creatures.

Fourth and fifth grade students identify the butterfly anatomy structure and function.

Fourth and fifth grade students identify the butterfly anatomy structure and function.

Students collect specimens from butterflies found on the ground and in many of their teachers’ car grills. While this is an unfortunate fate for the butterflies, it’s a great opportunity for OST hands-on experiences.

Fourth and fifth grade students identify the butterfly anatomy structure and function.

Fourth and fifth grade students identify the butterfly anatomy structure and function.

Students identify the various species, research their habitat, and plot the migration route via computer programs from start to finish for those butterflies lucky enough to avoid hungry birds, road traffic, and gusty winds. Students are encouraged to share their discoveries with their peers and teachers.

Students tracking the butterfly migration route.

Students tracking the butterfly migration route.

Learning is fun. Friendships abound. It’s Cool to Stay After School!

Cynthia Wise Galvan, Ed. D. received her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in bilingual education. As the school district director at Mercedes Independent School District, she developed the locally, state, and nationally recognized afterschool innovative intervention programs for at-risk Hispanic youth. As a community leader, she created partnerships with local and state organizations to help create a professional learning community. She is currently a grant writer, grant peer reviewer, and educational consultant. For more information, contact her at cwgalvan@gmail.com.

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