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"Green Immersion" The concept of bilingual environmental education Kristin Kersten Otto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg. E  L  I  A  S. Structure. 1. Background 2. The EU-Project ELIAS Goals Structure 3. Green Immersion What it is How it works

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"Green Immersion"The concept of bilingual environmental educationKristin KerstenOtto-von-Guericke Universität Magdeburg



1. Background

2. The EU-Project ELIAS



3. Green Immersion

What it is

How it works

4. The Bilingual Zoo-Preschool in Magdeburg

(Suzanne Akerman & Shannon Thomas)

Setting and Conceptual Design

Zoo Education


Zoos and aquariums enable people to develop appreciation, wonder, respect, understanding, care and concern about nature.

WAZA 2005: Building a Future for Wildlife – The World Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Strategy (WZACS); Chapter 5: Education and Training

background wzacs
Background: WZACS

Education and Training

  • education as a central role for all zoos and aquariums
  • develop strategic plan for education and environmental sustainability (a "green" ethos), incorporating conservation issues
  • collaboration with a variety of educational institutions, universities and teacher training institutes to link educational programmes to curricula developments
  • lifelong learning: students from pre-school to university
  • evidence to evaluate impact and effectiveness of education programs
background eu
Background: EU

'Mother tongue plus two other languages': Making an Early Start

Language competencies are part of the core of skills that every citizen needs for training, employment, cultural exchange and personal fulfilment … It is a priority for Member States to ensure that language learning in kindergarten and primary school is effective, for it is here that key attitudes towards other languages and cultures are formed, and the foundations for later language learning are laid, … in particular by teaching at least two foreign languages from a very early age.

European Commission: Promoting Language Learning and Linguistic Diversity: An Action Plan 2004 – 2006, p. 7


Bilingual education / Immersion teaching (e.g. Wode 1995)

  • most effective method of teaching foreign languages
  • content-based

 integrating contents such as science & nature topics with foreign language teaching

Early start

 3+ formula(Wode 2001)

  • bilingual / immersion preschools
  • bilingual / immersion primary schools
  • bilingual education in high schools





the eu project
The EU-Project

ELIAS(Early Language & Intercultural Acquisition Studies)

Project Goals

  • Monitoring of bilingual preschools
  • Enhancement of second language learning, intercultural competence, and bilingual environmental education for preschoolers
  • scientific documentation
  • evaluation of conceptual designs
  • recommendations and dissemination
the eu project1
The EU-Project


  • 16 partners from 4 European Countries(Germany, Belgium, England, Sweden)
  • Cooperation partners from Italy and the Netherlands
  • 9 Universities
  • Zoological Garden Magdeburg
  • 7 bilingual preschools with English as second language, e.g. the Zoo-Preschool in Magdeburg


Prof. Dr. Holger Kersten, Kristin Kersten

(Magdeburg University)

the study
The Study

1. Preschools

 Longitudinal Study

2. Cultural Studies

 Intercultural Competence

3. Linguistics

 Second Language Acquisition

4. Speech Therapy

 First Language Acquisition

5. Biology-Didactics

6. Zoological Garden MD

 Zoo Education

the eu project2
The EU-Project

Participant Observation (Spradley 1980)

  • qualitative research methods
  • observers take part in daily preschool routines

 integrated in the preschool system

  • avoiding "test situations"

 emotional stability for the children

  • field notes and questionnaires
  • language assessment
bilingual education
Bilingual Education

Immersion method (Genesee 1987, Wode1995, Zydatiß 2000)

to be "immersed"in the second language (L2)

  • the second language as medium of communication, not as focus of grammatical learning

 all content matter is taught in the second language

  • in bilingual preschools: all daily routines and activities
  • in immersion schools: as classroom language

 more than 50% of the school subjects are taught in L2

green immersion
Green Immersion

Combining the factors

"Green Immersion":

immersion language education

based on nature-related ("green") topics

(Kersten & Perret 2008)

  • zoo education
  • environmental education
  • conservation
immersion teaching
Immersion Teaching

(Lorenz & Met 1989)

Comprehensible input

"Understanding occurs when input ... is comprehensible, and input becomes comprehensible when it is supported by concrete experiences, visuals, realia, and nonverbal communication that assist in conveying meaning." (p. 37)

Contextualization of content

 body language, gestures, facial expressions

 pictures / visual aids, concrete materials, realia

 repetitions, paraphrases, intonation, extensions("caretaker speech / motherese")

immersion teaching1
Immersion Teaching

Results of Canadian Immersion studies

(e.g. Wesche 2002)

  • the content knowledge is not negatively affected
  • the development of the first language does not suffer
  • attainment in second language is much higher than in traditional foreign language teaching
  • more positive socio-psychological attitudes
  • suited both for strong and weak learners

 enhancement of language and general cognitive skills without negative effects for content knowledge and first language

immersion teaching2
Immersion Teaching

One Person – One Language Principle

(Döpke 1992)

 native speakers of English as educators

Experiences from bilingual preschools

  • the children are enthusiastic and very proud of their second language skills
  • within a few weeks they understand the daily routines in English
  • comprehension of the second language precedes production
immersion teaching3
Immersion Teaching


Researcher: Show me the mouth!

Child: Die Maus is nich da.

[The mouse is not there.]

Researcher: Look at the ducks over there!

Child: Das ist doch kein Dachs!

[That's not a badger!]

Child: Eric is red, Paul is dead – and Tini is fat!

www elias bilikita org

The Website

The ELIAS project is funded with support from the European Commission and Lotto Toto Sachsen-Anhalt.

This product reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any

use which may be made of the information contained therein.


"Green Immersion"

Magdeburg’s Bilingual Zoo-Kindergarten

Suzanne Akerman

Shannon Thomas


The preschool

  • Zoo Kindergarten Children’s House e.V. Magdeburg
    • August 2008
  • Vogelgesang Park

EZE 2009 Köln


The team

Director: Jaklin Isensee

  • German speaking educators:
  • Kathleen Schladitz
    • immersion teaching in France
  • Viola Krebs
    • intercultural experience
  • English speaking educators:
  • Diana Lawrence
    • immersion teaching in China
  • Suzanne Akerman
    • zoo education experience
  • ELIAS Project participants:
  • Lydia Gerlich (no photo)
    • student research assistant
  • Shannon Thomas
    • immersion teaching in South Korea

The zoo

Zoologischer Garten Magdeburg:


Our mission

“To experience the zoo with children means to learn with the mind, heart and hand. Animals can wake up emotions and improve cognitive and communicative abilities of the children – who as a consequence – are stimulated to communicate their ideas and feelings with open-hearted enthusiasm.”

Jaklin Isensee

“Let’s be honest you, me, our generation, we are a hopeless case that can’t be helped any more. But with today’s children, we can still achieve something. Here the preservers of our environment are born!”

Dr. Kai Perret


Our goals

  • Fostering environmental awareness in young children
  • Setting the foundation for bilingual abilities
  • Increasing young children’s intercultural awareness

Our goals in action

A lesson from conception to completion

  • Teaching in the classroom
  • Morning Circle
  • song time
  • new English vocabulary
  • new environmental concept
  • in-class reinforcement through either crafts or games
  • Reinforcing the morning circle lesson in the zoo

“Behavioral enrichments”


Our goals in action

  • Materials we use for greater understanding

flash cards

real photos


weekly zoo visits

video clips


Our goals in action

  • Facilitating children’s comprehension

Teaching environmental concepts in the first language


Teaching environmental concepts in the second language

Our planning motto:

Teach the basics first, then the concept


Our goals in action

  • Another difference between we what do at the zoo kindergarten and zoo education in general is that our target audience falls within a very specific age range.
  • Many environmental topics are very complex, requiring mental scaffolding.
  • Our age group requires the basic building blocks to become the foundation for environmental learning.
  • To construct this foundation we base our lessons on the cognitive development and abilities of children ages 5 and below.
  • Our older children are already capable of linguistic taxonomy in their first language.
  • Where as the younger children have yet to develop that ability..
  • To maximize the learning potential of each group we create 2 sequences of lessons based on the same environmental theme.

The end

Give us a hand

Tail end

Go ahead