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ELL students get multiple benefits from museum visit

Bryan Izaguirre, an English Language Learner student from Willmar Junior High, spends time with an electricity exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota. (Submitted photo by Jerry Gesch)

WILLMAR -- Star Gomez stepped on a scale to compare her weight to that of a huge fish.

Samuel Zuninga saw how a different electrical current brought a different colored light from a bulb and how the energy from pedaling a bike could turn on lights.

Brayan Cuevas learned that water with minerals in it is good to drink but can be bad for clothes and hair.

The eighth-graders and more than 40 other English Language Learner students from Willmar Junior High visited the Science of Museum of Minnesota this week to tour an interactive exhibit called WATER.

But the science education was only part of the goal for the trip, which was funded by a grant from the Target Field Trip Grants scholarship program.

ELL teacher Noemia Gesch and child guide Aggie Meium accompanied 45 kids and other chaperones to the museum.

"My objective was to unite them as a team or a group ... to get them to socialize among themselves," Gesch said after the trip.

The students in her classes are from many different backgrounds. There can be friction between groups, she said, but that seemed to dissipate on neutral territory like the science museum.

Going into the city together, "having to stay in a group, working together," was good for the students, Meium said.

The hands-on learning at the Science Museum also helped her students get a better grasp of one of the subjects they complain about the most, Gesch said.

"They need to be in science, it's a core subject," Gesch said, but the students complain that it is very hard.

Seeing and touching the exhibits at the museum was good for them, because the ELL students tend to be visual learners. "If they don't see, they won't put it together," she said.

The reaction from students -- "it was awesome." Along with the water exhibit, they talked about fossils, dinosaur bones and a two-headed turtle they saw.

School budgets don't provide funding for field trips. Gesch referred to Meium as "my guardian angel."

Child guides are in the schools to find ways to meet needs of at-risk students.

"I write the grant and help set it up," Meium said. "I try to find the funding; it's not part of curriculums any more."