Elementary school gets extra tools for Spanish immersion with Martin's grant

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Experts agree, children have an easier time learning a foreign language than adults. Also, the more the children are exposed to the foreign language, the better.

That’s the thought behind the Spanish Immersion Program at Holy Cross Grade School in South Bend.

The pre-K and kindergarten children and their teachers speak Spanish for almost the entire day, every day.

“A typical day is mostly in Spanish,” said Clare Roach, the school’s Spanish Immersion Program coordinator. “In kindergarten, we spend from the moment we walk in until the very end of the day, when we do have a tiny bit of English that we do teach at the kindergarten level.”

The Spanish Immersion Program at Holy Cross is designed to work just like the title suggests: by immersing the young learners in an environment full of Spanish.

For example, 5-year-old Faye wrote a short story, all in Spanish.

“¿Cuál es el título? (What's the title?)” her teacher asked. “El Erizo. (The Hedgehog),” Faye replied. “Sí, ese es el título. ¿Y qué pasa con el erizo? Vaya, se cayó. ¿Por qué se cayó? ¿Qué estaba mirando el erizo? ¡El arcoiris! (Yes, that's the title. And what happens to the hedgehog? Oops, it fell. Why did it fall? What was the hedgehog looking at? The rainbow!)”

“We have our small reading groups, just like any traditional kindergarten classroom,” kindergarten teacher Annie Borjas said. “Just that it's all happening in Spanish. We do math in Spanish, we have recess. We have indoor playtime where we encourage the children to speak to each other and play with each other in Spanish.”

“We started with our youngest learners, because we know when you're little your brain is like a sponge for language,” Roach explained. “We started last year with pre-K classroom and then grew into our kindergarten level this year. Next year, we'll open our first grade classroom and we will grow as these children grow.”

Five-year-old Aiyana is thrilled to be able to speak Spanish with relatives.

“My mom knows a little bit,” Aiyana said. “My mom and my grandma is born in there. In Spanish.”

“One of the most exciting things we hear is from families who are pleased to report their children for the first time can communicate with their grandparents. So it's really deepening relationships for all of our children. We think expanding their brains, but their hearts, as well,” Roach said.

The Martin’s Super Markets One School at a Time $1,000 grant will help the school purchase Spanish books and games.

If your school needs funding for a project or program, apply for the One School at a Time grant. You’ll find it here.