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July 21, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Unity through language Unity through language (July 21, 2004)

Local mothers the impetus for new Spanish immersion preschool

by Steve Shih

Spanish used to be something taught in high schools, then it became part of the elementary school curriculum. Now even 3-year-olds can learn to habla espanol.

On July 13, Palo Alto's first Spanish immersion preschool opened its doors at Cubberley Community Center. Started by five mothers, all of whom enrolled their own children, the school was first conceived at a playground in Palo Alto's Monroe Park.

Since, according to one mother, "their brains are like little sponges," exposing young children to a second language seemed like a great idea to the parents when they met a year and a half ago.

"We opened it up to anybody who wanted their little ones to have that experience," said Adriana Faiman, one of the mothers who doubles as a teacher.

The program costs $100 and meets once a week for eight weeks. Each class is 40 minutes long. It is conducted entirely in Spanish with participation from both children and their parents.

Aside from Faiman, students are taught by parents Rosalia Pacheco, Ana Abbey, Elizabeth Gomez and Jenna Adams.

Each day begins with a theme, such as vowels, and the rest of the curriculum is built around it. The songs, art crafts, and puppet shows, all in Spanish, try to incorporate the theme as well as encourage interaction from the parents and kids.

"The more the parents relax and make it a fun experience the more the child will be able to acquire some fluency," said Faiman, a psychologist.

Oftentimes activities will also include a cultural aspect such as when the children learned about "Ekaokao" a Northern Argentinean folk god who grants prayers. They learned how Argentines light the god's cigarette and put specific items on his figure as a ceremonial prayer.

According to Faiman, the program also has benefits beyond learning a foreign language.

"It created a real nice community, a real continuity between worlds," Faiman said. "Having another language would expose the kid to different world views."

Editorial Intern Steve Shih can be reached at sshih@paweekly.com


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