Eighth-graders see how Georgetown integrates Spanish

Author: Tammy L. Lane • First Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013

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Ruth Brown, director of Inmersión en Español Georgetown College (IEGC), coordinated the day's activities for the visiting Bryan Station eighth-graders.

Ruth Brown, director of Inmersión en Español Georgetown College (IEGC), coordinated the day's activities for the visiting Bryan Station eighth-graders.

Ruth Brown, director of Inmersión en Español Georgetown College (IEGC), coordinated the day's activities for the visiting Bryan Station eighth-graders.Lisa Cross, a social studies and language arts teacher, recalled how a Transylvania University recruiter who visited Bryan Station last fall was impressed by the Spanish immersion students’ commitment to excellence and level of school involvement. “It seems to be a trend that our kids tend to be more well-rounded because of all the other activities they do,” Cross said. In a simple craft project, the students fashioned colorful maracas from plastic eggs, spoons and Skittles.Alicia Vinson, the world languages immersion program coordinator for FCPS, went along on the Georgetown field trip. She said the professors were impressed by the eighth-graders' enthusiasm and engaging questions.

A group of eighth-graders recently spent a day immersed in Spanish at nearby Georgetown College. During the field trip, the students realized how their exploration of the language and culture can extend far beyond Bryan Station Middle School. 

“I really want to travel and probably will minor in Spanish. It’ll definitely open a lot more doors and opportunities,” Kylie Baczkowski said during a break.

Ruth Brown, director of Inmersión en Español Georgetown College (IEGC), coordinated the activities. The youngsters heard from an admissions counselor, went on a campus scavenger hunt, sat in on three mini classes, and checked out the student center and bookstore. Throughout the visit, exchanges were mostly in Spanish. 

“It’s motivating them to keep studying the language and finding connections beyond what’s just in school and seeing the value of it,” Brown said.

After lunch, she shared a brief overview of IECG, which offers general studies classes such as math, sociology and literature integrated in the curriculum. The 2-year-old program is particularly valuable for college students who want to continue working on their language abilities and critical-thinking skills but not necessarily major in Spanish. Participants include a mix of native English speakers who were in a Spanish Immersion Program (SIP) or studied advanced Spanish in high school, heritage speakers who grew up speaking Spanish at home and native speakers here as international students.   

The Bryan Station students’ engaging questions impressed the Georgetown professors, and Brown suggested they would do well in the college’s program.

“It offers them an opportunity to really refine what they’ve already been doing. They’re at a big advantage because they’ve been at it for so long,” she said, noting that Fayette County Public Schools offers SIP starting in kindergarten.

Brown challenged the youngsters to practice their skills outside class perhaps by changing the settings on their iPhones or following a recipe in Spanish. “You get new vocabulary and you’re interacting without thinking about it,” she said. “That’s the best way to learn more – by doing things that are interesting to you.”

Using the image of a scuba diver surrounded by water, Brown suggested the immersion students find ways to use the language in everyday life such as in restaurants or community service projects in Hispanic neighborhoods.

“I watch TV sometimes in Spanish just for practice,” said eighth-grader Russell Scaife, who along with Kylie started in SIP at Maxwell Spanish Immersion Magnet School.

Both also had older siblings enter the FCPS program ahead of them, and Russell’s brother double-majored in Spanish and economics in college. 

Brown asked the students to toss out examples of careers in which they could use their Spanish skills, and they mentioned everything from fashion models and doctors to journalists, pilots and receptionists.

“It helps you communicate more effectively with the people you deal with,” she reminded them – not to mention that a bilingual employee often commands a higher salary and receives a signing bonus.

Lisa Cross, a social studies and language arts teacher at Bryan Station, also noted how SIP propels youngsters toward a successful future.

“Their ACT scores, their SAT scores, their academic performance are much, much higher than the average student because the focus is at a gifted level. The expectations and parental involvement and continuity are really beneficial,” she said. “It makes them more college/career ready.”

She appreciated the invitation for eighth-graders to visit the Georgetown campus and consider where their Spanish might ultimately lead, saying, “It makes it real so they can see beyond where they are now.”   

To learn more …

Spanish Immersion Program  (SIP) in Fayette County Public Schools – Alicia Vinson, coordinator

Inmersión en Español Georgetown College (IEGC) – Ruth Brown, director, (502) 863-8012  



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