Play-based learning – and holiday camps
Once Halloween is over, we enter what I (somewhat) affectionately call the Holiday Vortex. It seems like Thanksgiving is a blip on our radar before we can even catch our breath for December. In between, there seem to be a series of small school breaks, report card days and professional development days that leave us scrambling during an already busy time of year. Luckily, a local organization has several options for keeping kiddos occupied – all while they learn Spanish.
Now in their sixth year, ¡Vámonos NOLA! is the brainchild of two local moms, Nancy Doll and Krystie Schultz, both native Spanish speakers looking to create a Spanish co-op playschool for their young children. What started as two moms helping each other out has turned into larger organization that includes camps, classes, tutoring and after-school programs.
“We saw an incredible demand from the community from people wanting to learn a second or third language,” said Doll. “We also wanted to create an environment where children who already spoke Spanish at home were comfortable speaking with people besides their parents.” The response was so positive that Doll and Schultz quicly grew their business and plan on opening a Spanish-immersion Early Childhood Center in the near future.
Although they have a summer camp, the holiday camps in the winter offer amazing flexibility for parents looking for an activity during fall and winter breaks from school. What stands out about this program in particular is that it isn’t a full immersion program but instead implements what they call a “sandwich method,” utilizing Spanish-English-Spanish so that kids new to the language don’t feel left out and students with experience can still practice their skills.
Parents have the option of becoming a member of the organization to get a discount on these holiday camps, which focus specifically on crafts and games that not only pay tribute to the holidays celebrated in our own country, but that also teach children about the holiday traditions in Spanish-speaking countries. The curriculum is play-based and emphasizes kids feeling safe and comfortable, ideally creating an environment where they want to learn and share the Spanish they have learned. The summer campers even Facetime with the Doll’s and Schultz’s relatives abroad to practice their speaking and see how their language skills work outside their own world.
In teaching children about other cultures and introducing them to new language, the goal of ¡Vámonos NOLA! is to teach children to become global citizens and leaders. The organization also places a huge emphasis on sustainability and helping kids make healthy choices. They have called many community centers and churches “home” in their six years, recently moving back to St. Pauls’ UCC, and take pride providing healthy snacks for their campers.
The staff has a combined 20 years teaching experience, and everyone, of course, is fully bilingual in English and Spanish, so students have first-hand role models for bilingualism and its benefits. There also do a lot of team-building exercises, so students come away with the idea that language learning is not an individual effort, but instead a cooperative one, showing them the importance of community and teamwork – lessons that translate no matter what language you’re speaking.
Just the Facts …
Upcoming Thanksgiving Camp: November 25-29 (No camp Thanksgiving Day)
9 a.m.-3 p.m. (before and after care optional)
Cost: $50 a day (members)
$70 a day (non-members)
Annual membership available for $50 (included with summer camps registration)