Immigrant and refugee students prepare for fall at Seattle Parks’ Summer Science Academy

Volunteer Naturalist Chris Hoffer shares an intertidal zone community at Me-Kwa-Mooks.


Seattle Parks and Recreation along with, the Refugee Women’s Alliance, Vietnamese Friendship Association and the Seattle School District, provided a five-week Summer Science Academy for new students attending the Seattle World School in the fall of 2014 from June 23-July 25. Funding for the Summer Science Academy was provided by the Family and Education Levy.

The Seattle World School is a culturally diverse institution within Seattle Public Schools that supports newcomer students in an orientation setting and English Language Learner high school students in meeting graduation requirements. The population of World School students ranges from ages 11 to 21 with 17 languages represented.  The students are immigrants and refugees, many who arrived in the United States a month prior to enrolling in summer school.

Students discover nesting Osprey, hunting Great Blue Herons and resting Caspian Terns on the banks of the Duwamish River.


World School students are one of the highest-need populations in the Seattle school district, with 100% newcomers failing to meet standards in state reading and science tests and 96% low-income, as measured by free-and-reduced lunch status.

The Summer Science Academy provides a low-ratio, high-rigor instruction to increase English language proficiency and retention through engagement with the natural world and science.  The summer academy ensures students retain the English language skills they have learned, and improve their language skills, as well as expand their understanding of the world around them.  This is accomplished with curriculum designed and written by Seattle Parks staff for use in the classroom and in the field.

Seattle Parks Volunteer Naturalists


This year, the classroom curriculum was integrated with field days of interpretive programming led by Seattle Volunteer Naturalists. An average of 70 students attended each field day participating in small group explorations led by Seattle Volunteer Naturalists with 12 World School teachers and volunteers assisting.

The theme of the summer was the Web of Life in Urban Habitats. By exploring the community of habitats found in West Seattle and the Duwamish River Valley, students gained an appreciation of diverse habitats, humans and the communities within which they live.

Communities that were explored during field days included the forest community of Lincoln Park, the urban community surrounding World School on Capitol Hill, the intertidal community at Me-Kwa-Mooks, the river and Duwamish community at Herrings House, the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center in the Duwamish River Valley and a day of stewardship in the forest community of Westcrest Park.

Volunteer Naturalist Beth delaFuente said she had an incredible experience interacting with the students this summer.

“I was so touched by one of the students telling me that his dream is to go back to his home country and teach farmers about conserving forest lands,” delaFuente said. ” He was really paying attention, and I was delighted that the Seattle Parks curriculum encouraged him to pursue that dream.”