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School Spotlight – The International Spanish Language Academy

May 29, 2024

By Raelynn Schuety

We host so many unique schools with all different types of backgrounds. Wolf Ridge is proud to have hosted the International Spanish Language Academy from Edina Minnesota in February 2024. The ISLA has been coming to Wolf Ridge since 2013, and typically attends later in the spring but this year, they were able to come in the middle of an unusually warm February.

The International Spanish Language Academy (ISLA) is a public elementary school dedicated to immersing students from Kindergarten to 6th grade in the Spanish language. Renowned for its rigorous academic program, ISLA fosters bilingual proficiency in both Spanish and English, equipping students with the skills to thrive in a diverse, global society. With a commitment to nurturing strong character through the International Baccalaureate Organization Primary Years Programme (PYP), ISLA stands out as a beacon of excellence in education.

We had the pleasure to interview two teachers, Jordi and Cori, on their experiences with Wolf Ridge. Here’s what they had to say:

ISLA students and chaperone during GPS & Geocaching, finding their first clue!

The international Spanish language academy has been coming to Wolf Ridge since 2013. In your time with the ISLA, how have you seen the experiences shape your students’ understanding of environmental issues? 

Cori

I think that they definitely make different connections when they can be out in nature and talking about some of the issues rather than just studying things in the classroom, you know? They just develop more of a connection. I’ve definitely seen kids, who will reference issues that come up and we use them as opportunities in the classroom as well when we’re studying landforms or ecosystems. It’s really great to be able to refer back. “Hey, remember when we did the frozen lake study or remember when we went on the Ojibwe snowshoe hike” and referring back to those experiences. We always love being able to incorporate those different pieces of it. And also not just the environmental piece, but the collaboration too. I think it is really important and some groups need it more than others. It’s really helpful to have someone else really guiding them through structured challenges and learning how to be able to communicate and work together.

How has Wolf Ridge adapted its programming to continue to meet the evolving needs of your students over the years? Have you noticed anything?

Cori

Our liaisons tend to be really helpful in having consistent communication and being really responsive to group dynamics and giving us a lot of support. Some groups may have a hard time with collaboration. So then we kind of make that a focus and the naturalists give them very structured activities to really help them build those skills. They’re just really responsive to what we need. I’ve always found that the staff is really happy to help us with that, and they always have really good connections with the kids and have a good time and bond with them.

Jordi

I think that they do a great job, setting expectations before the class, saying what we’re going to learn and what we’re gonna do or practice or explore. I think it’s interesting for us to see it from another perspective. Like Senora Adams said, if there is someone who’s not following expectations, for example,  the instructor made this coyote sign with their hand to quiet down the students.

ISLA students using their GPS to navigate our group through the course.

GPS & Geocaching chalkboard with some Spanish vocabulary.

Some of our naturalists are fluent in Spanish and conducted some teaching in Spanish. Were the students able to effectively communicate and engage in activities conducted in Spanish?

Jordi

I noticed they had on the board some vocabulary in Spanish. Brie [a second year naturalist] was referring to one of these boards at some point, she was looking at me, “Am I pronouncing this right?” Yes. Absolutely. And I think this is the first year I’ve noticed that and we really appreciate that. I was very surprised about it.

Since you have attended Wolf Ridge before, how have you implemented the experiences and lessons learned at Wolf Ridge?

Cori

Well like the PMA (Progress Monitoring Activities), when we go into a lesson or challenge, we remember how important the PMA’s are. I’ll use games that we’ve learned up here, back in the classroom and lessons from conversations that we’ve talked about or referencing different activities. We’re currently studying Ojibwe history and incorporating some of the things that we learned during snowshoeing.

Students reflecting on the challenges they faced after the course and drawing pictures of what they noticed.

To make the course more interesting, our naturalist implemented a points system. Points were earned if students saw specific animals or did challenges such as hug a tree or climb the North Stairs!

Do you find that students have a different attitude towards environmental issues when they go back afterwards?

Jordi

I was very surprised during the GPS & Geocaching class with my group, they were collecting all the trail trash possible to get points. It’s fun because when you go back to the school, they ask you “Hey can we do this system as well? Can we get points for turning off the light?” We work on this methodology that is called responsive classroom. I tend to do this a lot, giving them points, for either individual privilege or a collective privilege.

A heartfelt appreciation goes out to the International Spanish Language Academy for their continued attendance to Wolf Ridge. It brings us immense pride to learn that our efforts have sparked the initiation of student-led initiatives within your school. Your unwavering commitment to immersive learning and environmental stewardship is inspiring.

We extend our sincerest gratitude to Jordi Costa and Cori Adams for agreeing to participate in this interview.