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World Language Academy begins plans for international travel

POSTED: January 15, 2014 12:18 a.m.

World Language Academy sixth-grader Halle MacPherson works on math problems Tuesday during class. The school is in the early stages of planning an international field trip for a week or so to allow the students to study in a foreign country.

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When Principal David Moody envisioned World Language Academy six years ago, he knew it would be a place for students to be instructed in both English and Spanish.

He had no idea just how much the students would rise to the challenge of not only learning a second language, but fully embracing an entirely different culture.

“Our leading edge of our immersion students that began in first grade are now in sixth grade,” Moody said. “One of the things that we’ve noticed is that our students’ language level is amazing, (but) they have no understanding where they are linguistically.”

Associate Principal Carrie Woodcock agreed.

“They’ll be like, ‘Oh, I didn’t even realize I was speaking Spanish,’” she said. “They realize they’re speaking Spanish, but they don’t realize in an authentic setting how well they do speak and understand Spanish and the culture and so forth.”

Hall County’s World Language Academy, now in its sixth year, has expanded to a bilingual school for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

To help students make that connection to better apply what they’re learning, Moody and Woodcock have proposed that World Language Academy eighth-grade students be allowed to take a capstone trip to a foreign country, where they can practice language skills while being fully immersed in the culture.

Through partnerships with nearby colleges including the University of Georgia and University of North Georgia, some different options have opened about locations where students could study for a couple of weeks.

One of those options is the University of Georgia’s Costa Rica campus, which boasts open-air classrooms, dormitories, a natural science laboratory and a recreation center.

“Our proposal ... is the possibility of providing a culminating international experience in a Spanish-speaking country, where students can use their bilingualism and multiculturalism in a service-oriented environment,” Moody said.

Moody and Woodcock said the trip would likely cost around $2,500 per student, which is why they’re requesting permission to move forward with plans now — this year’s sixth-grade students would be the first to travel during their eighth-grade year.

“We are looking at exploring this potential, and giving our families enough time to begin saving money as well as fundraising,” Moody said. “We want to make sure every child, regardless of finances, has the opportunity.”

Superintendent Will Schofield said typically only high school students go on international trips, but he thinks an exception should be made in this case.

“This would be a capstone eighth-grade experience,” he said. “They would fundraise for it. It’s no additional cost to the school, and I think it would be absolutely incredible if (they) could pull it off.”

The topic was discussed at the Monday work session of the county school board. Members approved the concept, but final field trip approval would still need to be requested from the board.

The next steps include ironing out supervision details, and beginning the fundraising process.

“Our job is to help our students feel proud of, and see what their parents and I see are the possibilities for their future,” Moody said.


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