Sixty English as a Second Language students from Coon Rapids Middle School learned about city government May 11.
They walked from the school to the Coon Rapids City Center where they were split into six groups for rotating presentations from city staff members during the morning.
The focus was on the city council, CTN cable television studio, and the police, fire, parks and public works departments. The fire, parks and public works presentations were outside in the city center parking lot.
This was the third year that Coon Rapids Police Det. Pat Carlson, who is in his 19th year as police liaison officer at the middle school, and Jeanne Kimble, Coon Rapids Middle School ESL teacher and department leader, have organized the field trip.
Before that, the event was open to all the students at the middle school. “We had hundreds of kids and it was hard to manage,” Carlson said.
So three year ago the decision was made to limit the field trip to ESL students and the response has been very positive, according to Carlson.
This year for the first time, ESL students from all three grades took part.
“These kids’ families are from other countries and it gives them a chance to learn about how city government works in the Coon Rapids from the functions of the police and fire departments to what happens when you turn the water on,” Carlson said.
“The kids really enjoy the field trip.”
According to Kimble, not only do the students learn about city government, they can go back to their parents and give them the information, including where to go if they need help from a city department.
Students are really enthusiastic about the event and those that took part last year wanted to come again this year, even those who have graduated out of the ESL program, Kimble said.
“They really love it,” she said.
Students in the ESL program at the middle school come from immigrant families, whose first language is not English, Kimble said.
“They are from all parts of the world,” she said.
According to Kimble, students on the field trip were from Africa, Asia, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Central and South America. “We have one student from the Philippines this year,” Kimble said.
Students ranged from newcomers in the ESL program to those who are close to being proficient in English, she said.
To graduate out of the ESL program, students have to pass a state test, Kimble said.
Following the two-hour learning session, the ESL students ate lunch on the patio behind the city center, then walked back to the school.