At ESL Summer Camp, Lessons Go Beyond the Classroom
By: Melissa Trinley Short-term Programs Manager
CCI Greenheart once again hosted students in Upstate New York and Northern California in July and August 0f 2013. Students traveled from a few countries in Europe including France, Spain and Italy, several countries in Asia including, Vietnam, China, Japan and South Korea as well as the Latin American countries of Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia and Brazil; one student even traveled from Kazakhstan.
CCI Greenheart’s ESL summer camp is unlike other ESL programs because it is specifically designed for teens to help participants advance their English language conversational skills and help them grow into young adults. For many students it is their first experience living away from their parents for an extended period of time. For a class assignment students wrote letters home. Tien from Vietnam wrote, “I think this is the best summer so far. Let me tell you something about my cool summer camp. First of all, the classes are fun. Second of all, all my friends are so nice and funny. We had a lot of fun together. Thirdly, on the weekends, we visited NY City which is a new experience for me.” The Lead Teacher in NY said, “I was amazed to see how quickly 29 students from 7 different countries forgot about being shy and became a real community–a community of teenagers who looked out for each other, expanded their comfort zones, and learned to think about helping the environment. Very quickly, I could see our students leaving their fears behind …Students vastly improved in their ability to use English, but what was even more important to me was to see them learning how to be a good friend, how to solve problems, and how to become a contributing member of a community.”
In addition to using camp as an opportunity to prepare to attend either a US high school or as a resume builder for acceptance to a US university it is also a chance for the teens to spend time in nature. Both ESL summer camp locations are about 1.5 hours north of NYC or San Francisco allowing students easy access to these major cities while also allowing for plenty of outdoor activities in these naturally beautiful river valleys. In addition to afternoon sports activities and outdoor games, in the Hudson River Valley the group took a river cruise and volunteered at Walkway Over the Hudson. For this Greenheart volunteer project the teens learned about the historical significance of the region prior to eating a picnic lunch at the state park and then working on a trail restoration project.
In Northern California students floated down the Russian River, had barbeque dinners and campfires on the campus beach and for the Greenheart volunteer project the group visited an organic CSA, Cultivating Impact. The organization sells the food it produces in local markets and works with area schools to connect children to their food source while also promoting sustainable agriculture. On the weekends the group visited a Redwood forest, played in the Pacific Ocean, explored Lake Sonoma, took a cruise on the San Francisco Bay and took trips to Berkeley and San Francisco.
On both programs American teens were invited to visit campus to play games with the international students and help them with their English. According to the Lead Teacher Kelly Tempest, “I know that camp is an experience that our students will remember for the rest of their lives, and it is my hope that their American experience is just one step down a road toward a life full of community engagement and meaningful adventures!” CCI Greenheart hopes so too and looks forward to welcoming students again next summer.