Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 27, 2013

SALISBURY — For the past two weeks, Spanish-speaking children from all over Rowan County have been exploring the world through technology.
This is the second year that Knox Middle School has hosted an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) summer enrichment camp for students going into grades two through six.
The camp is following the theme of the reality TV show “The Amazing Race,” where contestants race around the world and perform challenges.
Based on their grade level, the children were divided into teams named for forms of transportation, like jets, trains and buses. Those teams compete to earn the most points by finishing certain activities.
Together, they have been using computers, iPads and other devices to research different continents and countries around the world.
Jerri Hunt, director of ESOL and staff development at the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said one of the main goals of the free day camp is to help the children keep up their English skills over the summer.
“This year, there’s technology infused in everything they’re doing,” Hunt said.
Last week, the children got to put together Lego robotics toys as a team-building activity.
The large teams were split into smaller groups, and each one built a Lego animal. They could earn points for building the design, for programming the animal to move with the WeDo program and for adding computerized sound effects.
Hunt said the students didn’t know how to start the project at first. But as they began to talk to each other, they got more comfortable with making plans, sharing ideas and solving problems together in English.
“They are working with collaboration, having to talk, listen, explain and use high-order thinking,” Hunt said. “They are all actively engaged the whole time, and we’ve had zero behavior problems.”
Jonathan Napoles, a rising second grader at Hanford Dole Elementary School, worked with his team to build and animate a toy monkey.
“My favorite part of camp is building with Legos,” he said.
Teammate Braulio Cerero, a rising second grader at Morgan Elementary School, said he’s having fun at the camp.
“It’s cool, because we get to make stuff with technology,” he said. “Next we do iPads, and I love iPads.”
During the first week, campers learned how to use several programs like iMovie, Keynote, QR codes, a sock puppet application, a comic book creator and more.
This week, they picked one of those formats to give a presentation about what they have learned.
For younger students and those who don’t know as much English, the camp also includes lessons with the Rosetta Stone language learning program.
Miriam Basso, parent facilitator with the ESL program, said the camp had an average of 65 children last year. This year, 100 students were registered, and actual attendance reached 79 by the end of last week.
“It’s overwhelming. It’s wonderful,” Basso said.
She said it’s important for students to keep up with technology and continue learning during the summer – especially for those who don’t have Internet access at home.
“There is a need to keep the children engaged,” Basso said. “There is a need to keep them involved in reading and now computers, because everything’s on computers.”
Joseline Gomez-Lara, a rising sixth grader at North Rowan Elementary School, said she likes learning about Colombia because most of the people speak Spanish like her.
“Some of them learn English in English classes there,” Joseline said.
She said she thinks the camp is “very cool,” and her favorite part last week was building the Lego robot.
Claudia Retana, a rising fifth grader at Knollwood Elementary School, also said she enjoys the camp.
“It’s so fun here,” she said. “We use so much technology, like games and the computers.”

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.