Study Abroad Immersion programs

By Martha Hayden posted 07-22-2011 03:58

I am a Spanish teacher in Princeton High School, NJ. We are a model language program for the state of NJ and our programs are successful because we really believe in immersion inside our classroom, learning language through topics about the world that are relevant to the students and hold their interest and only using authentic materials . We are also fortunate  to  have a supervisor that believes in freedom of expression for her teachers. This means, we the teachers, develop the curriculum and all our materials for our classes which makes for a rich cultural content that keeps the students engaged. No books! Thank god!

Taking off from my classroom, which is a daily 50 minute immersion experience, I started bringing my students to Peru to have a 24 hour immersion experience and it was so successful I started a service learning travel company that does language immersion combined with service learning at the high school and college level. We also offer student teaching opportunities and work internships for college students in various fields.

The focus of our programs are environmental issues and the preservation of indigenous cultures in Peru. This follows my classroom curriculum in which we study pre-columbian cultures and the Incas: their religion, political and social structure, economics, art and architecture, the geography of Peru, its regions, ecosysytems and ecoregions which conclude with the students creating their own eco-businesses. Having my students travel to Peru and watching them
interact and be guided in Spanish and watch the guides be at awe  about the student's knowledge of Incas, their gods, their vision of the world (cosmovision) which was that every action had an effect on the whole, etc, etc etc makes all my 4am nights preparing my classes so worthwhile. It is a privilege to be able to transmit to my students the love I have for my culture.   
That is why I believe in immersion, whether it is in my classroom or abroad, it works!  
Martha Hayden