The C.I.A.O. project: A Meaningful Experience in Boston

Mauro Puppin (Jul 17, 2011)

Assessing the “Cambridge Italian American Odyssey" project

The “C.I.A.O.” project, whose acronym stands for “Cambridge Italian American Odyssey,” was established in Cambridge in 1998-99.  It focuses in the teaching of the Italian language in primary schools through intensive courses.  It started thanks to an agreement between the Cambridge Public School District and the MAE, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the Consulate General of Italy in Boston, and with the collaboration of the Italian Department of Harvard University for matters concerning the monitoring and the experimentation of methodologies.

The unique aspect of the CIAO project is the teaching of educational units of a number of subjects in Italian, rather than the teaching of Italian language itself. Indeed, there is a regular cooperation with Art and Music, and occasionally also Science and Arithmetic classes that take place with the contribution of an Italian teacher. In the past the Italian teacher would collaborate during History and Geography classes, but a lack of continuity in the teaching of these subjects exhibited some difficulties in the regular teaching by the MAE appointed teacher.

At first, the C.I.A.O. project involved three schools: the “Kennedy,” “Haggerty,” and “Longfellow” schools. The reorganization of the School District merged two schools into one single school, named “Kennedy-Longfellow,” where the experimentation has been carried on to date. At the beginning of the school year 2009-2010, the new teacher appointed by the MAE had some problems in obtaining a visa, delaying the start of instruction in classes. The Haggerty school, being unable to replace the absence of the Italian teacher, was forced to cancel the Italian courses.

As previously stated, the use of different subjects for the learning of the Italian language involves an educational approach that is able to improve the cultural and speaking skills of students. This has strengthened the experimental value of the teaching of foreign languages by using a method that is innovative and based on the methodological principles of the so-called “Content and Language Integrated Learning.” Dr. Sal Trapani, the Foreign Language Department Coordinator of schools in Cambridge, and the Professor Elvira Di Fabio, of Harvard University, have been working as advisors of the C.I.A.O. project since its institution.

Compared to the original project, the current participation of one single school in the experimentation has led the Educational Office of the Consulate General of Italy in Boston to consider the opportunity of bringing back the project in its original dimensions. It has been also considering the opportunity of going beyond the Educational District of Cambridge, involving into the project other areas of Boston that register a high presence of students of Italian origins.

Among the many schools that have been interested in taking part in this project are two catholic institutes, which have been selected.

The “Kennedy-Longfellow” school will continue to be the main school involved, both due to the number of hours scheduled as well as to the geographic location in the heart of Greater Boston.

By September 2011, the C.I.A.O project will be also joined by the “Our Lady’s Academy” school, located in the School District of West Waltham, and by the “East Boston Central Catholic School,” in East Boston. This area registers a high presence of Italians; indeed, in the local parish, the mass is celebrated daily in Italian.

These schools taking part of the C.I.A.O project count on the evaluation of the teaching of Italian into the “Report of Student Progress,” in order to demonstrate the complete integration of the language into the curricula. This covers the time span from Kindergarten, the first year of compulsory education in Massachusetts, to the 4th grade. Costs and procedures/methodologies that would guarantee continuity to the teaching of Italian through Middle School are currently under serious consideration and evaluation.

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