Spanish Immersion provides rich experiences

Author: Tammy L. Lane • First Posted: Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gallery (click any photo to view the gallery)
Students in the Spanish Immersion Program at Bryan Station Middle School recently took a three-day field trip to Chicago. (Photos courtesy of BSMS)

Students in the Spanish Immersion Program at Bryan Station Middle School recently took a three-day field trip to Chicago. (Photos courtesy of BSMS)

Students in the Spanish Immersion Program at Bryan Station Middle School recently took a three-day field trip to Chicago. (Photos courtesy of BSMS)One highlight is the Skydeck at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), the fifth-tallest building in the world. The Ledge's glass boxes extend out about 4 feet on the 103rd floor, providing unique views of the city.The reflective Cloud Gate or "The Bean" is an interactive sculpture in Millennium Park.Bryan Station students also enjoyed an architectural cruise on the Chicago River.Maxwell Elementary students didn't have to go far for a performance downtown at The Lyric. (Photos by Tammy L. Lane)Enrichment activities build on what the kids are learning in the Spanish Immersion Program.Grades 1-5 from Maxwell saw "The Firebird," presented by the Lexington Ballet. The director briefly explained the story in Spanish before the performance began.

For students in the K-12 Spanish Immersion Program (SIP), their entire school career revolves around learning another language and appreciating other cultures.

Whether tackling science concepts in class or ordering dinner in a local restaurant, these youngsters have a range of opportunities to expand their understanding of Spanish. And because SIP is a challenging curriculum, schools often incorporate enrichment activities and special field trips.

Students from Maxwell Elementary, for example, last month attended a performance of “The Firebird” at The Lyric Theatre, where the Lexington Ballet director introduced the storyline in Spanish.

Also, a group from Bryan Station Middle School recently spent three days in Chicago, taking in the Skydeck at the Willis Tower, seeing “Mary Poppins” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre and exploring the Museum of Science and Industry, among other sites.

Lisa Cross, who teaches social studies and language arts, makes the most of the annual trip. For instance, after the kids see a Broadway production, they have a better grasp of such elements as blocking, scripts and stage direction. Cross also ties in math as students marvel at the dimensions of the world’s fifth-tallest building. Among the follow-up assignments, her sixth- and seventh-graders write a pro/con paper on whether they would rather live in Lexington or the Windy City.

“Spanish Immersion includes a lot of enrichment that blends the real world with what you learn in school,” Cross said, describing how such trips benefit her students. “They don’t realize they’re learning as much as they are, and they remember it so much better when they’ve lived it and experienced it.”

Seventh-grader Candace Wade, who has studied Spanish since kindergarten at Maxwell Elementary, agreed.

“In class you’re answering questions, but this is getting you ready for real life and helping you see ‘What am I going to be using it for?’” she said. “You feel like you know a lot.”

Candace recognizes another long-term value of her SIP background, too.

“If you go on vacation (abroad), you can talk with people,” she noted. “It helps you be a part of their culture and connect with a lot of different parts of culture outside (the United States).”

International school trips give older SIP students a chance to polish their skills. Eighth-graders visit Costa Rica every year during Spring Break, and seniors make an annual trek to Spain. In both instances, students are surrounded by Spanish speakers and new cultural experiences.

“It allows them to really use the language in an authentic setting. It brings it all together,” said Alicia Vinson, world languages immersion program coordinator for Fayette County Public Schools.

Spanish immersion is available at Maxwell, Liberty and Northern elementaries, Bryan Station Middle and Bryan Station High School. (See details in the SIP link below.)

“The immersion program is an opportunity for students to learn two languages and to acquire proficiency – the ability to communicate verbally in a functional and accurate way,” Vinson explained.  “It’s easier if they start from the very beginning.”

She suggested that families commit their children to long-term participation to reap the full benefits, including improved academic achievement.

“The fact that kids stick with it so long says something about character, too,” she said.

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