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Exploring the Rainforest Through Art, Science and Technology

SchoolsFirst Center Supports Camp for English Learners
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For new teacher Caitlyn Bos, watching her students’ faces light up as they learn about pandas, red-eyed tree frogs, toucans, sloths, jaguars and other rainforest animals and biomes is what teaching is all about.

“Seeing the kids so engaged and excited about what they’re learning is what I want for every child,” said Bos, a Cal State Fullerton alumna who co-taught “Rainforest Safari Camp” at Melrose Elementary School in Placentia during July.

The arts-and science camp was presented by CSUF’s SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Center for Creativity and Critical Thinking in collaboration with Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District and Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Campers learned more about the rainforest by participating in art, science, English language development and other hands-on lessons to help them grow as learners, scientists and artists. They drew and painted, wrote poetry, and created videos about the rainforest, and also kept a daily journal of their findings and questions.

The three-week camp served 450 third- through fifth-grade students at Melrose, Rio Vista Elementary School in Anaheim and Topaz Elementary School in Fullerton. Bos was one of 18 recently credentialed teachers — all of whom completed CSUF’s multiple-subject teacher preparation program in May — who helped co-teach the program with district teachers.

“We find that the teachers grow in confidence because of the camp’s innovative teaching practices, which offer more room for student choice and learning experiences across different curriculum areas than does the typical school day,” said Andrea M. Guillaume, professor of elementary and bilingual education. Guillaume and Ginger Geftakys, both SchoolsFirst center program coordinators, developed the camp curriculum.

The main goals of the camp were to integrate English language development — campers are learning English as their second language; excite students about science and engineering; and provide rich and integrated visual and performing arts experiences to deepen their learning about the rainforest.

“A huge outcome of working toward these goals is that from the very first day, campers take on exciting new ‘habits of mind.’ When given the opportunity, students are hungry to explore the natural world. They embrace opportunities to write about what they learn, to draw things from nature and to instigate their own learning,” added Guillaume.

Teaching the camp program taught Bos ’15 (B.A. in communication studies) instructional approaches she plans to take with her as she becomes a transitional kindergarten teacher this fall at Mariposa Elementary in Brea.  

“This program has given me the opportunity to work with veteran teachers, get a feel for classroom management and prepare me for my own classroom,” she said.