Article Credit: Posted by Mind Shift and tweeted by PBS Teachers @pbsteachers on August 29, 2016
From the article: "Prior to the 1960s, scientists thought children who spoke more than one language had a handicap for learning because they had to spend too much time distinguishing between languages. With more modern brain imaging technology, researchers can now see how multilingualism actually strengthens the brain. People who speak more than one language have a higher density of gray matter that contains most of the brains neurons and synapses.
Scientists are also beginning to distinguish between young children who grow up learning and speaking two languages as compared to those who learn a second language in adulthood. Children use both hemispheres of the brain to acquire language, which means they often grasp the emotional implications of language more deeply. In contrast, adults who learned a second language tend to approach problems presented to them in that language in a more rational, detached way. Scientists hypothesize that it's because adults often acquire language through the left hemisphere of the brain.
Learn more about the fascinating brain research around multilingualism from this TED-Ed video and the accompanying lesson plans. Many classrooms are filled with students who speak more than one language and they should know that ability is a great strength."
by Martin Naffziger, M.Ed.
SI Global Academy understands that true, meaningful learning and growth happen when we engage with ourselves and our world through immersive experiences rather than purely traditional classroom learning. This understanding means that our student Immersive Experiences are different than traditional study-abroad models.
What makes our Immersive Experiences in the U.S., Costa Rica, Peru, Austria, and South Africa different?
Preparation to Make Real Connections
At SIGA, we prepare throughout the year for each Immersive Experience, as connecting through language and culture are huge parts of getting to know a new place. However, we also understand that we are not only visiting a new place, but that we are entering a new community. At SI Global Academy, students will spend their year preparing by connecting with and getting to know individuals and communities who will welcome us as hosts. This means that SIGA students are not outside visitors, but arrive as part of a supportive community.
Abandoning the Prescriptive Model of Study Abroad
Study Abroad programs in high schools and colleges across the United States are often described as “carefully-designed” or “faculty-taught” experiences that carry predetermined learning and service goals with them. At SI Global Academy, we take questions. Through the investigation of these questions, we learn about language, history, art and more from the perspective of our hosts rather than our own. This is true experiential learning!
Our connections with individuals and communities begin throughout our months of preparation, but don’t end there. As we are welcomed into our Immersive Experiences, SI Global Academy partners with local schools, organizations and businesses to truly connect with and better understand our new communities. Want to partner with the University for Peace in Costa Rica? Indigenous communities in the mountains of Peru? The Global Citizenship Alliance in Austria? Yep, we can do that.
SI Global Academy students develop a portfolio unlike any other high school graduate's, and our Immersive Experiences provide student-led, inquiry-driven opportunities to showcase skills developed while answering Essential Questions. Maybe you want to produce a documentary film on organic coffee farming. Or design a website documenting your family’s history from their first arrival in the States. How about collaborating to develop a community art gallery promoting immigrant rights? Let’s work together to make it happen.
SI Global Academy’s Essential Questions - those that drive our curiosity about and immersion in our world - are investigated throughout the year and during Immersive Experiences. Answers to these questions - new perspectives and understanding, new skills developed, new connections with individuals and communities - lead us back to reflection and should alter our questions (and answers!) about ourselves. How has this experience changed my answers to “Who am I”? How do I interface differently with the world? This reflection on Immersive Experiences sets SIGA students apart.
By Dr. Heather Tracy, Ed.D.
The 21st Century has brought with it amazing advances in technology and artificial intelligence. Many philosophers and analysts have asserted that society has changed more rapidly in the past 20 years than in multiple centuries before it. With an ever-networked globalized society and instantaneous diffusion of information accessible to more and more people, how could this not affect human development? How do our youth adapt and adjust to such significant and rapid changes?
Education became a formalized institution to help prepare people to get jobs and become workers. But we no longer live in the Industrialized Revolution era. Social analysts believe many of these skills that are still being taught in formalized education are becoming less important if not obsolete. With Google at our fingertips, who needs to memorize the battles of the Civil War? Or formulas for math equations? Or diagrams of the nervous system? We can just look them up!
What we do need is the ability to know what our goal is, to map a plan to reach the goal, to know where to find and filter reliable sources, to be open to dialoguing differing perspectives, to discern fact from fiction, to synthesize information in a systematic way to analyze complex problems, and to be creative, innovative, and persistent in finding possible solutions - both for our own personal lives as well as for our professional and academic endeavors.
This is why Supportive Immersion theory proposes the PROPS skills as a guide for building 21st Century skills for integrative growth and the “self-generating function.” The self-generating function is all about being able to be a lifelong learner who is an active agent generating solutions for complex and novel problems in our rapidly changing society.
The PROPS stand for:
SIGA believes that education has a duty to help our youth build these PROPS skills. SIGA also believes that youth learn best when problems are relevant, timely, and a part of our experience. Our curriculum, activities, and relationships are all geared towards modeling PROPS skills and guiding students to empathically connect, collaboratively empower and immerse in novel experiences that stimulate learning and growth. The PROPS skills will prepare SIGA graduates to be active agents in their own lives and the world around them.