Giant cogs and double helixes line the hallways of Mesita Elementary School, perfectly illustrating the “Gen Tech” theme of the dual-language camp this summer.
The annual two-week camp started last week with 200 students from eight different campuses.
“We wanted to integrate something the kids love, which is technology, with something related to science and math,” said Marcela Duran, Mesita assistant principal and camp coordinator. “The teachers plan around those ideas and are following the 50/50 model so they are learning in English and Spanish.”
This year, the camp introduced Mandarin to give students from other campuses a taste of a third language. Mesita has been teaching Mandarin for three years.
“I never thought I’d be learning Chinese,” said Angeles Dominguez, a fifth-grade student from Polk. “I really like it.”
Initially, Angeles wanted to join the camp to grow and retain knowledge.
“I thought it would be good so I don’t lose all that intelligence, so when I go to school in August, I’ll be ready,” said the future aerospace engineer. “I like the things we’re learning. My favorite part is the double helix because it’s interesting to me how all the parts connect.”
Teachers focus on active learning to keep lessons fun and students engaged. Hands-on technology, the absence of grades and flexible seating like bean bag chairs and cushions make the school have a different feel than it does during the traditional school year.
The camp ends with a student showcase that allows parents to see the product and work they completed during the two weeks.
“The three hours go by so quickly. They don’t even realize it,” Duran said. “They are still doing a lot of writing, still thinking and still connecting but the way the material is being presented to them is different.”
The lesson on genetics has many campers intrigued.
“I knew I wanted to be a scientist and I thought DNA would be a good thing for me to learn,” said Mesita second grader Levi Salazar. “I wanted to learn how DNA makes you be yourself and how it makes yourself be you.”
Herrera third grader Isaac Terán prefers his trips to Mesita rather than daycare.
“I’m learning a lot about science,” he said. “I like it better than daycare because at daycare we just do activities. I like how we do hypothesis to learn why something works, why it doesn’t and what it reacts to.”
Angeles also enjoys learning the specific vocabulary words used for the topics introduced in the camp.
“It’s very interesting and very high level, so it is a challenge and I like a challenge,” she grinned.
While the students are busy working on projects in their classrooms, training is underway for 67 elementary and secondary teachers interested in receiving their 30-hour certification for gifted and talented and dual language. EPISD teachers and other GT and dual language experts are leading the teachers through the training.
“The teachers are learning the theory and then walking into the classrooms and seeing theory in practice,” Duran said. “They are seeing how the teachers apply our gifted and talented model and how to plan for students who are gifted and also in a dual language setting.”