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Think you could learn Mandarin? This Kansas kindergarten classroom is Chinese-only

December 7, 2019

 

On a recent morning in Overland Park, Kan., at a school next to a horse pasture in the middle of the country, a kindergartener raised his hand and asked to go to the bathroom — in Mandarin Chinese.

Students sang a Chinese song about family as teacher Claire Pan, a native of Taiwan, pointed to corresponding characters. Later, when Pan gave instructions for a craft project, a young girl spoke quietly to her classmates at a table.

“That means whisper,” she says.

In a Wolf Springs Elementary School classroom with “Chinese Only Zone” signs taped to the walls, kindergarteners are learning their core subjects in the primary language of a global economic superpower located across the world.

This language-immersion class of kindergarteners is part of a new Blue Valley School District initiative to graduate high school seniors fluent in a second language, an asset school officials believe will give students a leg up as they pursue academics and careers and prepare students to participate in a global workforce.

Blue Valley educators said that they’ve been talking since 2007 about revamping their language offerings, particularly to those outside of the European family. And by 2009, a special committee had recognized in no uncertain terms the need to give students more time and real-world practice if they were to develop students with even a basic proficiency in a second language.

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