PROJECTS & INITIATIVES
Partnership with Fugees Family Organization, Inc.: Summer Academic Literacy Initiative (2008-present)
Since 2008, I have been involved in a variety of projects related to the education of refugee students, including designing the curriculum and directing a summer literacy program for the Fugees Family Organization. The Fugees are soccer players, all refugee children who live in and near Clarkston, Georgia, one of the national relocation centers for refugees who are granted asylum in the United States. The organization uses competitive soccer as a galvanizing force to unite children from a wide variety of religious, political, cultural, and national traditions. All of the players are required to attend the educational programming offered by the organization, which now includes an alternative middle and high school (grades 6-12), the Fugees Academy.
A primary feature of the educational enhancement work with the children (almost none of whom speak English as a first language) is a six-week summer enrichment program, hosted by the Department of Education at Agnes Scott College, where I am department chair. Working with the administrative team for the organization, I have developed a high-interest/high-challenge literacy curriculum for the “camp,” with an emphasis on the creative and performing arts. The aim is to provide the students with an authentic language-learning environment in which they can increase their writing, reading, and speaking skills, as well as their academic confidence.
The curriculum includes preparation for a camp showcase at which the students explain their work in the camp to an audience of native English speakers. The showcase serves as a high-stakes authentic assessment of the students’ learning during the six weeks of the camp.
I have been collecting data and archiving student work from the five summers that the camp has operated.
Partnership with Global Village Project: Digital Storytelling with Refugee Middle Schoolers (2012-present)
My relationship with what has become the Global Village Project began five years ago when I worked with a group of community activists and educators to write a grant proposal to fund an intervention initiative for the “older” children of refugee families who had been resettled in and near Clarkston, Georgia. Clarkston is a small community very close to Atlanta. The project has continued to grow and now serves a core group of middle school girls who are preparing to enroll in an American high school.
In the spring of 2012, I partnered with GVP to provide a literacy intervention that focused on storytelling, but that also included a technology element. The students who participated (the most English-proficient, as determined by the administrators at GVP) worked through a phased curriculum titled, “Hear a Story, Tell a Story, Teach a Story.” The lessons offered the students opportunities to enhance their listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills as they learned about narrative structures and story elements. Each student in the project told a story of her own and then translated that story to a digital format, incorporating images and music. As a culminating activity, the students premiered their “films” for an audience of peers and adults and explained the process they worked through in the lessons.
The project spanned eight weeks, and I gathered data about the students’ experiences with the act of telling stories and with the technology tools. The first article about this project appeared in Voices from the Middle (an NCTE publication) in May, 2014.
I repeated the project in the spring of 2013 and again with another group of GVP students in spring 2014. The research goal of the project is to report on the students’ experiences as they engage with the lessons. I am particularly interested in noting evidence of academic confidence–an indicator of the students’ willingness to tackle a challenging learning activity in English, a language they are still acquiring.