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Idaho’s only public Mandarin immersion school doing well

February 21, 2012

Chinese spoken at Meridian elementary school

By CYNTHIA SEWELL — cmsewell@idahostatesman.com

Posted: 12:00am on Feb 21, 2012; Modified: 9:22am on Feb 21, 2012

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First-grader Keirstan Knutson, 6, a student at Gateway Elementary, uses an interactive smart board to show a math equation she hears in Chinese. DARIN OSWALD / IDAHO STATESMAN

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  • THROUGH AN INTERNATIONAL LENS

    Immersion, or dual-language, programs are increasing nationwide to help students learn through an international lens and become culturally proficient in our emerging global economy.

    Thirty years ago, the U.S. had fewer than two dozen language immersion programs. Today there are almost 450, said a 2011 report from the Center for Applied Linguistics, a nonprofit organization that advocates for foreign language instruction.

    Spanish and French are the most popular, 45 percent and 22 percent respectively, of the nation’s immersion programs. Mandarin Chinese is the third-most popular at 13 percent, followed by Hawaiian (6 percent), Japanese (5 percent) and German (3 percent).

    Want to go to Gateway?

    The school holds a lottery each year for available spots in its Mandarin Chinese immersion program.

    Applications, available on the Meridian school district website, are due by Feb. 29. Applicants will be notified of the lottery results by the first week of April. For more information, call the school at 855-4475.

    There are no additional costs to attend Gateway, except for the all-day kindergarten program, which costs $250 per month.

Adam Li holds up a tomato and asks his kindergarten class to identify it.

“Fan qie!” a half-dozen students eagerly call out.

Li next holds up a potato.

The students quickly respond: “Tu dou!”

In the classroom next door, Susan Parker stands before her first-grade class using an interactive smart board to show various monetary combinations. She points to a $1 bill and a penny, inquiring about the amount. A dozen kids raise their hands. Parker calls on 6-year-old Keirstan Knutson

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