Stories from the Field

Lessons Learned: Gardening, Puppets, and English Language Learners

Tell us about your plans for your NEA Foundation grant project.

As part of our “Language Acquisition through the Arts, Science, and Technology” grant project, my partner, Doreen Wells, and I hosted two gardening experts, who talked with our English Language Learners (ELLs) about what is needed for plants to grow. After the visit, our ELL students staged their own “Tips for Gardening” puppet show.

How do you think your NEA Foundation grant project will help your students?

Students experience authentic learning activities, like gardening and service learning, which help them learn science concepts while growing and observing plants and creating learning cards as study aids. The project has also improved their self-confidence and English language proficiency.

What is your passion—in or outside the classroom?

My passion is helping and working with teachers to find resources, including funding (which is the most critical issue), to assist them in activities that will enrich ELL students’ learning and lead to improved student achievement.

Describe an “a-ha” moment, when you or your students (or both) have experienced a transformation in your thinking or learning.

Witnessing the excitement of the students, teachers, and our media specialist as they watched ELL students participate in the school’s closed circuit TV announcements, stage puppet shows, design learning cards, and finally, present at a conference to share the activities of the project with educators from around the state was a huge thrill. I couldn’t be prouder of what the students have accomplished through this work.

Featured NEA Foundation grantee, Arlene Costello, teaches at Ensley Elementary School in Pensacola, Florida. Learn about other grant projects we’ve funded in our Grantee Archive. Find more information about how to apply for grant resources and how to support education grants for teachers. The next deadline for application is February 1, 2015.

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