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IEX J-Term 2020: Island Schooling: Supporting Pupil Learning in Sint Maarten, Dutch West Indies
Philipsburg, Saint Martin (Outgoing Program)
Program Terms:
Program Terms: January Interim
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This program is currently not accepting applications.
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Fact Sheet:
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Program Partner:
Gustavus Adolphus College
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Program Term(s):
January Interim
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Minimum GPA:
Program Description:
Program Description:
RainbowDo you enjoy working with children? Do you like schools and educational systems? How about tropical islands in January?

  • This course meets one of the two IEX (Interim Experience) requirements for all Gustavus students
  • Travel, live, and work in the multicultural island setting of Sint Maarten, Dutch West Indies (SXM)
  • Support pupil learning in SXM primary schools
  • Plan and deliver lessons to elementary pupils in island schools (if student teaching); classroom aide work for IEX students
  • Live locally within the schools' community
  • Local excursions, possibly including neighboring islands
  • Experience work, readings, journaling, excursions, and SXM classroom projects with a global focus
  • Led by professors of education, Lisa Dembouski and Debra Pitton. 
Do you enjoy working with children? Do you like schools and educational systems? How about tropical islands in January? This course acknowledges the multiple social, political, cultural, and historical influences that impact education and schooling, often in subtle or “invisible” ways. Geography, politics, histories of colonization, language, multiculturalism, weather, and many other influences are often inherent features of -- and are unique to -- islands, which is why we chose to center this course around these unique spaces. If these are of interest to you, then a unique and multi-lingual, multi-national island experience awaits you in this IEX!

During the school day you'll support K-12 student learning in a variety of ways (i.e. classroom aide, small group facilitator, lesson delivery - depending on your comfort level and training). In the evenings and weekends you'll have both structured and unstructured time to explore the island, learn more about its culture, people, traditions, and history, and experience all this island has to offer!  There are three scored assignments for the course (journaling, seminar, and a final classroom project), plus other non-scored options including excursions, collaborating with cooperating teachers, and local island living. Likewise there are non-scored opportunities including excursions and travel on island, collaboration with cooperating teachers, and local island living.

Sint Maarten, Dutch West Indies, is a constituent country of the Netherlands and shares half a 37-square-mile with the French constituent country of Saint Martin. Together, both nations comprise an island jewel nestled within the leeward islands of the Caribbean. While our work will primarily take place on the Dutch half of the island, there may be opportunities to explore the French half, as well as possible excursions (group or individual) to neighboring islands like Anguilla or St. Barthélemy. Sint Maarten is a tropical island with January temperatures ranging between 73-85ºF and two to three inches of rainfall. There are abundant beaches, distinctive (and delicious!) cuisine reflecting the multiple cultural influences and heritages of the people there, and it's a popular destination for international tourism (a primary feature of the SXM economy). 

While multiple languages are spoken on the island, almost everyone also knows English. Our school partners for this course were selected, in part, because English is the language of instruction in the schools, but most of the pupils are at least bilingual and, in many cases, speak even more than two languages

Approximate Academic Calendar
Expected dates
On-campus orientation: TBD Fall 2019
Arrival date: Jan 4, 2020
Departure date: Feb 1, 2020

Faculty Leader(s)
Lisa Dembouski, Assistant Professor in Education
LisaBefore Gustavus, Lisa Dembouski was a Peace Corps Volunteer, wilderness survival counselor, SpEd teacher in St. Paul Public Schools, and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota. At Gustavus, she teaches a variety of courses in the Education department, starting with one of the very first students take and progressing through the major; love teaching and being in schools as a student teacher supervisor; am involved in work that expands our efforts toward diversity/equity/inclusion on campus; have developed the Island Schooling IEX that you're currently considering; and write/present/research on a variety of topics, particularly those related to dis/ability studies in education. In her free time, she loves to read, cook, garden/grow things, kayak, and travel. My dream travel destinations include Asia and Iceland (international), New Orleans and New Mexico (national). I'm also getting better at nurturing some of my artistic and crafty skills including knitting and watercolor painting (note I said nurturing, I'm not very good at either of these. Yet!)

Debra Pitton, Professor and Chair in Education
DebraDebra Eckerman Pitton has served as a high school and middle level language arts teacher as well as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Learning and as an elected member of her local school board. She is currently on the faculty of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN in the education department where she teaches AVID, FTS, the student teaching seminar as well as supervising student teachers. Debra completed her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of North Texas, and has authored several books, including: Stories of Student Teaching, and Mentoring the Novice Teachers, Second Edition (A Corwin publication). She has published numerous articles and conducted workshops on mentoring, literature circles and communication skills for school districts across the country as well as given presentations at national educational conferences. Dr. Pitton has lead Gustavus January abroad courses in England, Costa Rica and Peru, and has traveled widely to supervise Gustavus Education student teachers abroad.

Anticipated accommodations will include guest houses, inns, and hotels.
Program Costs
Reduced Fee! The program fee includes on-site program activities, all ground transportation, lodging for the program dates, a few lunches and group dinners, and all of the excursions. CICE estimates that the program fee will be $4,500 to $4900 depending on final arrangements and enrollment. Students will be responsible on their own for travel to and from St. Maarten, most meals, and any personal expenses. The program housing will include kitchen space, so students will be able to shop for groceries and prepare meals together, and the schools will offer inexpensive lunches for purchase. CICE can help offer advice about booking air travel and will provide a suggested itinerary for students who hope to travel together.

All Gustavus Adolphus College students who meet the general study away requirements are welcome to apply. 

Application Deadline
Students must complete the online application by May 1, 2019. 

Entry visas and passports
U.S. citizens do not require a Tourist Visa to enter Sint Maarten; however, a passport is required. All students who are not U.S. citizens should contact Bryan Messerly to check about possible additional visa needs. All program participants must have a passport that is valid through at least August 1, 2020, by the start of Fall 2019 semester.

The information in this online brochure is subject to change. Please contact CICE with questions.

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This program is currently not accepting applications.