Leviton Dual Language Elementary School Partners with National Grid for Science

Kindergarten children “swim” below the fish they made in a hands-on Dual Language science lesson with volunteers from National Grid.

Kindergarten children “swim” below the fish they made in a hands-on Dual Language science lesson with volunteers from National Grid.

Leviton Dual Language Elementary School partnered with National Grid on February 26 for a day of scientific exploration. National Grid is committed to supporting the communities it serves by reaching out to various neighborhoods to find ways to help them and the people who live there. The company honored its sense of community by enlisting eight volunteers who visited Leviton Dual Language Elementary School to work with teachers and students by bringing science investigations from the Foss Science Kits to life. 

Upon arriving at Leviton, a banner created by art teacher Megan Archer and students greeted the volunteers in both Spanish and English. After a continental breakfast and a brief meet and greet with the school’s principal, Dr. Javier Montanez, and second-grade Dual Language Spanish-side teacher, Robert Prignano, volunteers proceeded to their assigned classrooms.

Joining kindergarten teachers and students, National Grid employees found themselves cutting, coloring and stuffing fish. Once the project was completed, the teachers hung the fish from the hallway’s ceiling where they are currently “swimming.” Teacher Tracy Hitchcock-Carcamo expressed her gratitude for the extra helping hands. “We finished the first component of the lesson’s hands-on project in one day when it normally would have taken us two to three days. It was incredible to have such support for both the teachers and students!”

The first grade’s focus question was, “What are Earth Materials?” They used bags of earth materials and baskets of river rocks while incorporating a KWL chart (what I know, what I want to learn and what I learned) and adjective usage into the lesson to describe the materials they would eventually sort and classify. First-grader Yudalyn Gondres commented, “It was fun to work and share ideas this way.” Grade 1 English-side teacher Laurie McKenna-Therrien said, “Our volunteers were extremely impressed with the students’ depth of knowledge and ability to communicate in both Spanish and English.”

Second graders focused on, “How does heat cause changes in matter?” The teachers combined both classrooms to bring volcanoes to life as students followed a recipe to create their own play dough and then made volcanoes with play dough, plastic water bottles and paper plates. Students then poured a mixture of baking soda and vinegar into their volcanoes to simulate heat that caused the volcanoes to erupt.

Leviton students with a volunteer from National Grid.

Leviton students with a volunteer from National Grid.

Wendy Carriero, senior sales representative for National Grid, expressed her delight with the school’s Dual Language Program. “How fortunate the students are to be able to keep their own language, Spanish, while learning English. And look at how engaged they are!” Jeffrey Dunham, a second-grade volunteer, shared his knowledge of the intricacies of how volcanoes work by relating personal anecdotes as well as scientific facts. According to Kimberly Gibeau, second-grade English-side teacher, “This was a wonderful experience for all involved. It was advantageous for teachers, it challenged students, and volunteers saw genuine acquisition of English in the midst of students using two languages.”

Students were equally impressed. Melannie Baez Carmona claimed that this was one of the best ways for her to learn a science lesson because she was using “my own hands to do the lesson and I had so many adults helping me.”

Fifth graders worked on airplanes to support their Force, Motion and Energy lessons. Students Noelia Tavera and Xavier Reyes said, “Tom, our volunteer, helped us learn about gas by discussing his work as an engineer.” Livan Sarit offered, “Tom talked about solar panels and how some people don’t use electricity because they prefer solar energy.” Abram Lopez added, “Tom talked to us about his job and how telephone poles are used as sources of electricity.”

Perla McGuinness, fifth-grade Spanish-side teacher, was just as excited when she expressed how their volunteer “had the students eating out of the palm of his hands. They were sitting on the edge of the chairs listening and were totally immersed in his lesson.”

The day was successful and the volunteers were thrilled with the school. Said volunteer Fred Paine, “Great day! I really enjoyed working with the kids and I learned a lot.” Gerald Mirabile from National Grid added, “I was very impressed with the group of children (K – 1st grade) and the teachers that we worked with. I was very impressed with the children’s behavior and the level of ability that the teachers and teacher aides had in providing outstanding guidance and a great learning environment for the young people in this inner-city school.”

Prignano organized the event with Wendy Carriero from National Grid. “The volunteers’ support and willingness to share their knowledge and expertise enhanced the already exciting hands-on lesson,” he said.

Volunteers were amazed at how the students used both languages during their projects across all involved grade levels. They were interested in learning more about how Dual Language functions and were impressed with teachers’ wealth of knowledge about the program and its advantages for native Spanish-speaking students acquiring English. Leviton teachers were delighted to see such a warm reception for simultaneously learning in two languages.

Leviton is looking forward to future events with National Grid such as a special “touch a truck” day coming up in the near future.

This story contributed by Robert Prignano, Teacher, Leviton Dual Language Academy.