School Adds Foreign Language Program

The Shaftsbury School District in Vermont has decided to add foreign language instruction to its sixth grade students at the Mount Anthony Union Middle School.  Great news in times that are seeing language programs cut drastically or eliminated from school systems!  The story by Dawson Raspuzzi, “S’bury explores language options,” Bennington Banner, August 22, 2010, follows below:

The Shaftsbury School District board is looking at possibilities to bring foreign language to the elementary school at no cost.

At its July meeting, the board formed a committee of two board members and principal James Harwood to look at possible ways to bring foreign language to the school.

“We’ve had a request from parents and we’d like to see what we can do about it,” said chairwoman Elizabeth Benedict. “All the possibilities are being considered.”

Pilot course at MAUMS

For the first time, sixth-grade students at the Mount Anthony Union Middle School will be introduced to foreign language through a pilot exploratory course that examines multiple languages and cultures.

After running as a pilot at the middle school, Superintendent Catherine McClure said it could be brought to the sixth grade curriculum in Shaftsbury, Pownal, North Bennington and Woodford.

The new committee will likely visit the middle school at some point and observe how the course works, but it will also consider other possibilities to bring language and culture to the school, possibly for the lower grades as well, Benedict said.

One thing the committee will do is try to find volunteers in the community or from a local college who would be interested in spending some time introducing the children to world languages.

Board member Jennifer Arlotta, who is on the new foreign language committee with Benedict

and Harwood, said at a meeting earlier this week that another possibility may be doing some language learning through the Internet during students’ computer laboratory time.

Arlotta said the committee will also see if there is available grant money to fund foreign language instruction.

Benedict said at this point there are only ideas being discussed, but in the coming months she hopes there will be serious discussion about adding a cost-neutral program that could be during school or after hours.

“It has to be something that’s not going to cost anything, but we’re hoping there may be something out,” Benedict said.

Benedict said years ago there was an after school foreign language program in Shaftsbury run by high school students but it has not been in place in recent years.

McClure said she hopes more world language and culture will be integrated into the sixth grade curriculum in the supervisory union, which will include some lessons on Chinese culture in each building taught by a teacher from China who will spend the fall semester with the supervisory union.

“In the course of the year, we are really going to make an attempt at this office to try to bring more resources of world culture and introduction to languages to the sixth grades,” McClure said.

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