School News

Getting a head start on English — and school

Students in the Levittown School District’s summer ENL Jumpstart program researched dinosaurs and created short reports.
Students in the Levittown School District’s summer ENL Jumpstart program researched dinosaurs and created short reports.
Courtesy Levittown School District

Elementary students have been busy learning English in the Levittown School District this summer — and how the language is used in science. 

The ENL Jumpstart program, which provides support and hands-on training to English as a New Language students, featured new initiatives this year. In addition to literacy instruction, district officials said the revamped program included STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — classes. 

More than 50 children entering kindergarten through sixth grade enrolled in the free, three-week program at the Levittown Memorial Education Center. The district takes in students from north Wantagh and Seaford. 

Officials said that the students were engaged for three hours a day — double the amount of instruction time offered in past years. After doing a warm-up activity like coloring, they rotated through literacy, science and technology classes, as well as snack and movement time.

“This program is really a bridge between last year and the upcoming school year,” said ENL teacher Carol Rimler, the summer program coordinator. “The children really benefit, because they need the continuum of services, and it’s also a nice way for them to get out and socialize.”

In the literacy centers, younger students focused on letter identification and sounds, while older elementary students read short stories and kept daily journals. Frank Martin, a middle school special education science teacher at Jonas Salk Middle School, led the STEAM classes. 

The new STEAM lessons included studying butterflies’ life cycle, dissecting owl pellets, and designing race cars, planes and boats. Children also learned about dinosaurs by reading books and  doing online research, Martin noted. 

“This is the first year we extended the hours so we could introduce science into it and help integrate students and really break down the language barrier,” he said. “Since English is not their first language, communication and teaching the lessons can be hard. This program is hands-on, so it’s easier to demonstrate.”

Martin said that he enjoyed helping ENL students with their science projects throughout the summer. “It’s a nice change of pace to work with younger students,” he said. “I like having the academic freedom to do a lot with the kids.”

Michele Ortiz, the district’s ENL supervisor, said the program gave incoming kindergartners the chance to learn about basic classroom routines. All students in the program also received information about obtaining public library cards so that they can continue reading at home.

Superintendent Dr. Tonie McDonald said the program is a staple in the community, adding that it has been great way to help incoming students get a head start in school. “Our mission statement, ‘Success for Every Student,’ truly comes alive during our ENL Jumpstart Program,” McDonald said. “The knowledge the students receive throughout the summer program is invaluable and helps them prepare for the year ahead.”