Hugs From Monterey

The Hugs for Romania team showing off their final presentation

Middlebury Institute Curriculum Design Project

In order to achieve the goals of increasing foreign language proficiency of the children, founder James Slaton quickly realized he should probably know something about foreign language education and so is currently enrolled at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) in their Master's of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program. One of the required classes is "Curriculum Design" - a class where students learn the theory behind effective language curriculum and then apply that knowledge to a real-world language project.

What better real-world project than Hugs for Romania? James thought that this was the perfect opportunity to incorporate language learning and education in the organization's efforts. He asked for volunteers from the class and Hugs from Monterey was born!

From the group…

This project will assist Hugs for Romania in designing a language curriculum for the children of Project Romanian Rescue (PRR), the faith based organization that overseas the two group homes in Constanta, Romania.

PRR currently provides for approximately 20 Romanian children, 10 boys and 10 girls, ranging in age from 6 to 19. There is currently no dedicated educational facility and any instruction would likely be done at the boy’s home where there is a large social space, conducive to administering lessons. The students are all enrolled in Romanian public schools where english is taught by national mandate. English is introduced as early as kindergarten and after the National Education Reform (~1990’s) English became mandatory for grades one to nine. The current english curriculum is heavily influenced by the Common European Framework of Reference and specifically focuses on communicative and functional competence in English. Although the current national curriculum has improved with Romania’s entry into the European Union and advances in pedagogical theory, Romanian students (like many students around the world) are still not receiving the instruction they need to reach high levels of proficiency in foreign languages.

The materials available to our team are very limited. PRR has very limited funds and cannot afford to buy additional supplies for any teaching we do on site. However, they do have ample space for a makeshift classroom, a vehicle for transportation of the children, a computer with working internet, TV and DVD player. Additionally, Hugs for Romania has access to third party funds which can be used to buy school supplies for the children as well as any required teaching materials.

We chose this project for several reasons. Not only do we have strong personal connections to Hugs for Romania through team member James, but we also all love working with and helping children. Our entire team has had very positive experiences working with young learners and this greatly influenced our decisions to choose this project. We believe that education for under privileged children is extremely important and most of us would like to work with children in the future.

Our various and diverse experiences working with young learners have informed our approach to this project. We would like to create a fun and emotionally safe learning environment where the children have the opportunity to experience English in a more enjoyable setting. Exposing the children to different mediums of instruction could potentially show them that traditional classroom instruction is not the only way to learn a foreign language. We would ideally like to create a summer language camp where English is used to lead and instruct fun activities that correspond to the children’s interests. Our hope is that by experiencing english outside the traditional foreign language classroom, the children will be more inclined to pursue future English language education once it is not longer mandatory. We also would like to show students to how they might be able to use english in future professions and expose them to different jobs that they might not necessarily know about where english could be useful.