Cultural Immersion in Katonah: A Field Trip for English Language Learners

 This year, students with primary languages including Chinese, Italian, Slovak, Spanish, and Russian are attending the Katonah-Lewisboro schools. They are integrated into their grade and attend school-wide English as a New Language (ENL) classes.

To cap the year, the district's ENL teachers took the English Language Learner (ELL) students in fourth through ninth grades on an end-of-year cultural immersion field trip. 

Rather than visit a museum or memorial, they went to sites that showcase the community’s culture of volunteerism and collaboration, and local traditions—the South Salem Fire Department, the Lewisboro Police Department, and JT Farm. 

 “This trip was very important for our ELL students to learn more about their community, and how they are being protected by the Fire Department and the police,” said Isabel Di Marco, ENL Teacher at Katonah Elementary School.

“Field trips of any kind provide a live experience that builds vocabulary, background knowledge and enhances classroom learning,” said Sandra Costin, ELL teacher for Increase Miller Elementary School and Meadow Pond Elementary School. “District-wide trips let kids meet the students from the other schools, building a larger learning and social community. This trip was particularly exciting for two of my students whose parents were able to share their jobs and their commitment to volunteerism. They were so happy and proud.”  

“The fire fighters allowed all of the students to hop up into the truck and walk through to the other side,” said Jaimie Dini, ENL teacher at John Jay Middle School. “The kids loved it! They were able to see where fire fighters sit, and all of the cool equipment that they had. I hope it inspired our students to look into volunteerism.”

 “Our second stop was the Lewisboro Police Station,” said Vincent Bell, Assistant Principal of John Jay High School and the administrative liaison for the district’s ENL Department. “They met former Chief of Police Frank Secret who is the School Resource Officer in the schools. He told them how the police department partners with community members.”

 The field trip’s third stop was JT Farm, a local horse farm that provided a window into the community’s rural traditions.

“Many of our ENL students come from rural communities and I think the horse farm brought them back to a place close to their hearts," said Costin. “They loved feeding and petting the horses."

It started raining, and the group had to shorten the tour. They came back to John Jay High School, and one of the older students showed the younger children the library, cafeteria, theater, gym, and the fitness center that they would use in a few years.

“I think that was their favorite part!” said Bell.