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ELL students improving skills through a podcast about school's history

The ELL students at Rolling Green Elementary are putting in the work for their “Urbandale Memory Masters” podcast, a project launched this school year.

URBANDALE, Iowa — In today's world, there's no shortage of podcasts.

You can find one that covers any topic you're looking for. But, a group of students at Rolling Green Elementary School in Urbandale has learned through their own special podcast how important their past is to their future.

When you give a group of 5th graders a project, it can go all ways.

“It’s fun to learn with them and it’s stressful too,” said Naomi Davila, a student.

But either way, the ELL students at Rolling Green Elementary put in the work for their “Urbandale Memory Masters” podcast, a project launched this school year.

“My students are all working on their English skills," said Laura Beth Vander Ploeg, an ELL teacher. "We have four language domains of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. I wanted a project that they could encompass all of those that was a little more authentic and more fun than what maybe they’d be doing in a regular classroom.” 

Vander Ploeg came up with the idea for the podcast and its subject. 

“This is our last year in this building and so we’ve been wanting to do some things to commemorate the history of Rolling Green, so we thought we’d use the podcast to platform those stories before we move on to a new school,” Vander Ploeg said.

The rest is all up to the kids: the topics for the episodes, the research and the interviews.

“We interview all the teachers about people who retired from this school,” said Emily Martinez Perez, a student in the class.

Student Eduardo Martinez Leon told Local 5 that interviewing teachers helped him with "practicing talking one-on-one, in like a conversation." 

“Urbandale Memory Masters” has become such a hit, the Urbandale Schools and Alumni Foundation awarded Vander Ploeg and her students the “Making A Difference” grant for the class to buy new equipment.

“My job is definitely teach them academics, but also that pride in themselves that we can say they’re English learners or that they’re bilingual or multilingual," Vander Ploeg said. "There’s a difference in that and just showing them that they can be leaders in our school, that they can bring new things and be game changers within their community."

By bringing the past to a new-age medium, these students are educating themselves and their listeners.

“I think it’ll be funny for them when they’re in high school, they can go back and listen to themselves as 5th graders, which can be a fun thing or scary thing," Vander Ploeg said. "I think the autonomy piece is so powerful that they will see that they will see that they made a difference, they had an impact and people listened to them and they had something important to say."

Spotify users can listen to the podcast here.

If you are not a Spotify subscriber, you can also listen to it here.

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