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Gonzaga Summer Language Program Gives Spokane a Very International Feel

Gonzaga University/Spokane Public Schools

The Gonzaga University campus has a United Nations feel to it this month. More than 400 immigrants and refugees are spending time learning English as part of the university’s annual Summer Language Program.

What started 18 years ago at Gonzaga as a summer session with 10 teachers and eight students has grown to a three-week program with more than 400 English-language learners. Now children, from pre-school to high school, are bussed in. Some adults, as old as 80, are sprinkled in. They represent more than 50 countries and speak about 60 languages.

The students spend their mornings in classrooms learning English and their afternoons doing activities related to science, math and technology.

In the junior high school classroom, teacher Christina Smith and two Gonzaga students have engaged a couple of dozen students with an applied technology project.

“So we’re teaching English language through the content of 3D printing," Smith said. "It’s really exciting because they’re using such advanced language and advanced words to really be able to develop their thinking process, to be able to develop along with their peers here in the United States.”

In another room, 50 high school students are learning about setting goals, their career and education options.

In the university’s administration building, these second graders are finishing a lesson about gravity with a song to the tune of "London Bridge."

“Gravity is falling down, falling down, falling down. Gravity is falling down all around you,” the children sing.

James Hunter, who directs Gonzaga’s Teaching-English-as-a-Second-Language master’s degree program, says the program is funded in part by a state grant administered through Spokane Public Schools and part by Gonzaga. The program will end Friday with presentations by the student groups, a resource fair and a food bank.