I usually try to keep my day job as far away from my blog as possible but as they say: une fois n’est pas coutume. Every summer, I manage a professional development program that brings 25 K-12 public school teachers from Puerto Rico to Washington, D.C. Made possible by the Puerto Rico Department of Education, the month-long seminar focuses on four core areas: leadership in education, federal education policies in the context of Puerto Rico, integration of technology in the classroom and pedagogy and innovative teaching strategies. Here and there, I like to sprinkle in issues that I believe are also important to education today: promoting green and healthier schools. Last summer, I brought the teachers (pictured on the left in front of CentroNia) to visit Manassas Park City Schools. Their elementary school, serving 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students, went green in 2009. The Gold LEED Certified school is an inspiring example of the type of facility every student should be studying in. More than a place to learn, it’s an educational tool that helps bring up an environmentally conscious group of kids.
I also brought the teachers to CentroNia, a Columbia Heights pre-K through 5th grade institution that runs D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School. In Puerto Rico, public school instruction is conducted entirely in Spanish but English is taught as a second language and is a compulsory topic at every level. Many of the participants in my program are English as a Second Language teachers. For this reason, I thought CentroNia, a learning community that nurtures its young students to become fully bilingual and bi-literate in both Spanish and English, would be a great site for them to visit. I also wanted them to hear and learn about the school’s efforts to promote healthy lifestyles and informed food choices to both their students and their parents. CentroNia runs a “Eat Healthy, Live Healthy” campaign that provides nutritional education workshops to parents, teachers and the community, helping them learn basic nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices to model for their children. CentroNia also has a small garden in the front of the school, which is used as both a tool to teach kids about herbs and vegetables as well as a tool for them to learn new words in both Spanish and English. On a hot July afternoon, we met with Lola Bloom, one of the founders of City Blossoms, to tour both D.C. Bilingual and Girard Children’s Community Gardens.
This morning, I was thrilled to learn that D.C. Bilingual was awarded a Gold Award with Distinction for achieving the HealthierUS School Challenge. The HUSSC is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. Participating schools adopt USDA standards for the food they serve, agree to provide nutrition education and provide students with physical activity. D.C. Bilingual is one of five Washington D.C. public school receiving the award. Congratulations! ¡Felicidades! I’m looking forward to bringing a new group of Puerto Rican teachers to learn from all of CentroNia’s great programs and initiatives this summer.