By: Clare Adamus, NRMS Spanish Immersion Teacher
Lissa Weidenfeller, NRMS Principal
For the first time in Rockford’s Spanish Immersion Program, Maestra Clare Adamus, Principal Lissa Weidenfeller, and parent chaperones Christopher Gluth and Dr. John Hoyle accompanied fifteen students ranging in age from 11 to 13, the district’s youngest students to travel abroad, to participate in a complete immersion travel experience. According to our EF Tour guide, this is the first complete Spanish immersion trip to travel through Costa Rica. This was evident from the reactions of local guides who were shocked at the students’ level of proficiency and found themselves searching for words, as they typically present in English. Whether it was leaning about symbiotic relationships in the rainforest, how chocolate is made, or how to safely zip line, our North Immersion students communicated with locals in 100% Spanish.
As the students traveled through the country visiting various sites such as Poás Volcano, Manuel Antonio National Park, and Santa Elena Cloud Forest, they were not only immersed in the language but also the culture. For example, they were able to visit a local school outside of Monteverde where they were able to learn about Costa Rica’s educational experience, history, and heritage. In addition, our students made international friends. Students were able to plant a tree in the rainforest, sight see, and participate in many exciting excursions; including white water rafting, zip-lining, horseback riding, and more.
Rockford’s Spanish Immersion students have achieved a level of proficiency that meets college level expectations. Students from prominent universities in Costa Rica made a special trip to the local school to interact with our students and were moved to tears to watch the connection they made with the local children. which was something that has never occurred with other groups. It was a life changing experience not only for the local students and community but for our own students, as they were able to realize the power of their ability to communicate and become active participants within another culture so different from their own. One of the highlights of the trip was that Costa Rica’s 2nd Vice-president, Luis Liberman, was on our return flight to America. He was very interested in meeting our students and hearing about our program. He even took time out of his busy schedule to take a picture with our Rockford students.
Traveling abroad helps our students to become global citizens and experience other cultures they have learned about in school. For many of our travelers, this was the first time that they were able to utilize the language they have studied for so many years in such a real life and powerful way. The RPS students as well as parents, staff, and administration were deeply impacted and validated about our Spanish Immersion students’ bilingual abilities in a native Spanish setting. We are extremely proud of our students, their abilities, and how they represented the Rockford community!