English Language Fellow Ellen Comis planned and implemented both programming and a pre-camp orientation for an environmental sustainability themed English Access Scholarship Student Camp in Mindo, Ecuador. The program was a collaborative effort that included 20 Peace Corps volunteers, the local U.S. Embassy, local hotel management, and Access teachers working together to put on the camp for their students.
One of the purposes of the camp experience was to offer students a thematically based approach to content in order to provide a meaningful context to build language. During each of the two sessions, the students were placed in distinct topic groups including endangered species, oceans and coasts, rain forests, recycling, and waste management to gain background knowledge, identify problems associated with the specific topics, and explore possible solutions in an interactive, hands-on approach to learning. Students shared what they learned in their respective topic areas on the last night of camp through group presentations via posters, poems, and skits.
Mindo was the perfect setting given its biodiversity and natural environment. Students explored its ecosystems and ideas of sustainability via tours of both a local chocolate factory and a butterfly farm (mariposario). The camp provided a meaningful context for discussion, activated students’ critical thinking skills, and supported language learning as new concepts were introduced and applied. By integrating language with content and engaging student in interactive activities tied to relevant topics, students left camp motivated as they continue on in both their academic and English studies.