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European edition, Sunday, August 26, 2007

In the name of providing students with the skills to navigate a smaller and more interconnected world, the Department of Defense Education Activity is doubling the number of schools this year that will offer Spanish classes.

The program began last year in kindergarten and first grade at nine schools across Department of Defense Dependents Schools—Europe and is being introduced at eight more schools this year.

Students get 90 minutes a week of Spanish instruction, and the schools that first introduced the program last year are now pushing for it to be taught in second and third grades. The classes are taught by DODDS teachers who have received special training.

If all goes according to plan, the DODEA-wide program will incorporate more grades with each school year, said Laurel Eisinger, chief of the curriculum and instruction branch for DODDS-Europe.

The plan was formed between the military and DODEA, Eisinger said. Students at Naples High School in Italy will also be taking Chinese as part of the program, and there are long-range plans to start teaching Arabic in schools.

“The military perceives the need for their personnel to have the ability to speak in many languages, and DODEA HQ certainly supports that,” she said. “Being bilingual is a tremendous advantage in this world.”

Stanley Caldwell, principal of Alconbury Elementary School in England, said he is looking forward to the program coming to his school and the effect it will have on the young minds under his charge.

“It’s incredible, that window of opportunity in terms of children’s development and acquisition of language,” Caldwell said.

The minds of kids are like sponges, and the earlier they are exposed to other languages, the more they’ll absorb and retain them, he said.

“It’s a lot harder for [adults] to learn language,” Caldwell said. “It’s a great opportunity for the little guys.”

More language options

DODDS-Europe schools introducing the K-1 Spanish program this year: Naples Elementary SchoolLandstuhl Elementary SchoolVogelweh Elementary SchoolBamberg Elementary SchoolAlconbury Elementary SchoolPatrick Henry Elementary SchoolMannheim Elementary SchoolVilseck Elementary School

Schools expanding Spanish classes to K-3: Rota Elementary SchoolAviano Elementary SchoolRamstein Elementary/Intermediate SchoolRobinson Barracks Elementary SchoolPatch Elementary SchoolBoeblingen Elementary SchoolFeltwell Elementary SchoolLakenheath Elementary SchoolHainerberg Elementary School

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