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School Closeup: Vancouver, Washington

February 9, 2010

By Elizabeth Weise

Being from  Washington state, I’m embarrassed to say that when I went looking for the Vancouver, British Columbia school district to ask about Mandarin immersion there, I mistakenly found the Vancouver, Washington web site and called them without realizing I was in the wrong country.

But it just goes to show that Mandarin is everywhere. The Vancouver Public Schools, it turns out, just launched a Mandarin immersion Kindergarten this year, says Howard Yank, their curriculum resource coordinator.  Yank, who’s originally from San Francisco and went to Sloat Elementary, helped put together Vancouver’s program.

They began this year with 24 students in a Kindergarten class at Ben Franklin Elementary School. Washington state has half- and full-day Kindergarten, so there are an additional 9 students who are in Franklin’s half-day program who then go on for a 90 minute Mandarin immersion class in the afternoon. The hope is that next year they’ll all be together in a Mandarin first grade.

They’ve also got a great video up on their site here.

The program’s been going well thus far and the district hopes to have two Kindergartens start in the Fall of 2010 as word spreads of its success, says Yank. They’ve been lucky to have teachers in the district who are native Mandarin speakers and already have teachers lined up for next year.

The program has only a few native Mandarin speaking students, but about 35% of the students come from Mandarin heritage families.

Vancouver also has a six-year-old 50/50 Spanish immersion program and began a 90/10 Spanish immersion program last year, Yank says.

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