ESL Students Make Impact on the Environment & Ehret High

2016-05-17 13.27.01The U.S. Green Building Council Louisiana Chapter awarded John Ehret High second place in the high school division of this year’s Green Schools Challenge Competition.

It was a remarkable group of students who earned this honor for their school. Ehret High teacher Taryn U’Halie’s English as a Second Language (ESL) I and II students participated in a number of science and environmental projects throughout the 2015-2016 school year. Along with earning such a prestigious award,  U’Halie says these hands-on projects and events open students’ minds to the limitless ways education can influence their academic and social goals.

2016-06-11 09.23.45“It allows the students to use their academic curriculum by using real-life situations that can help them understand the importance of having a well-rounded education that will help them become upstanding citizens in their community.”

The Green Schools Challenge Competition is designed to educate people across the state about the benefits of green building and environmental stewardship through participation in hands-on, experiential projects. Ehret High is one of only 11 Louisiana schools honored. Along with a $1,000 prize, the program brought two electric cars to Ehret High on Earth Day so students could better understand the vehicles’ engineering and development.

“Everything about environmental studies is uniquely suited for my ESL students,” said U’Halie. “All of my students come from environmentally diverse countries and they love applying their own background knowledge of science and applying it to living and learning about environmental science in the USA.”

Here are just some of the projects students were involved with during 2015-2016:

  • Common Ground Relief taught students about wetland restoration. Students planted trees on campus and at the Bonnet Carre Spillway at Wetlands Watchers Park.
  • Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation took students on a tour of the New Canal Lighthouse. Students conducted water quality testing, led a beach cleanup, and received kayak lessons on Bayou St. John at the foundation’s urban marsh site.
  • The National WWII Museum Get in the Scrap program helped students understand the important role recycling played during WWII and still plays today.
  • The Science Connecting Communities website allowed students to obtain daily water data that surveyed the local temperature, latitude and longitude, barometric pressure, humidity, precipitation, moon phases, and the sunrise and sunset. U’Halie’s ESL students will soon use Skype to hold discussions on weather data with students in Colorado.

group pic kayak“Their accomplishments this year say that they truly enjoyed learning science and applying it throughout their community,” said U’Halie. “The students were always engaged in their learning.”

U’Halie has worked with ESL students all seven of her years with the Jefferson Parish Public School System (three at Bonnabel Magnet Academy and four at Ehret). She says her favorite thing about working with ESL students is she can make an immediate impact in their lives: academically, socially, and culturally.

“It allows me to connect personally with students and their families,” said U’Halie. “Being able to bilingually teach makes all the difference in the world, because at times it can give me a greater advantage to meeting the academic learning needs in the classroom.”

U’Halie recently received a Fulbright English Language Fellowship, through which she will conduct educational STEM research for the U.S. State Department through Georgetown University and the U.S. Embassy in Kazakhstan. She plans to use this diplomatic educational research to develop STEM lessons that can be applied with students at Ehret High and beyond.