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Sandy Journal

Lone Peak Elementary Celebrates Chinese Education Grant

Nov 06, 2015 10:30AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama

Sandy - Lone Peak Elementary students, staff and faculty celebrated being named a Confucius Classroom Oct. 21, with classroom presentations and a performance from guest Chinese acrobats. With the honor, the school receives an annual $10,000 grant from the Chinese educational ministry.

The Confucius Classroom grant is a partnership between Draper Elementary, the University of Utah’s Confucius Center and the Chinese National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, with the purpose to support Chinese dual immersion teachers, students and programs, as well as to promote Chinese language and cultural understanding, said Canyons School District dual immersion coordinator Ofelia Wade.

Lone Peak is one of six schools selected this year for the grant-partnership.

“Lone Peak was selected for its quality program, and as long as they maintain that education and propose ways funding can enhance and improve Chinese education for all students, the grant will continue to fund the program,” she said.

First-year Lone Peak principal Tracy Stacy said part of the grant this year covers 10 iPads and four Smartboards that will help in the Chinese-designated classrooms.

“The students will become more engaged in their learning, and teachers can assess as they teach and give students immediate feedback,” she said. “With the grant money being put into these classrooms, it opens up school funds to be used for the rest of the school.”

Canyons School District dual immersion programs offer a bilingual experience at a time when research shows young learners’ minds are developmentally best able to acquire a second language. Their elementary instruction is spent in two classrooms, part with the English-speaking teacher instructing in English language arts, physical education, music and art, and the second half with second-language teacher instructing math, social studies, science, language and health.

Research shows that in addition to learning the language, students have improved standardized test scores, increased cultural sensitivity, have better memory and problem-solving skills and increased classroom attention.

First-grade dual immersion teacher Diane Bringhurst, who has taught in the program for five years, said that the program also offers students a challenge.

“The kids are smart and by learning Chinese, it stimulates their brain, and research shows that it will stimulate them with every subject,” she said. “These kids are capable and feel successful when they study Chinese. That attitude is shared in other subjects, and they feel like they can learn anything.”

Bringhurst said that by learning Chinese, students are more prepared and have more career possibilities in the future. And through the technology provided with the grant, they’re more engaged in writing, reading and speaking.

“The grant is a gift to all our students, not just the dual immersion kids. Today, as part of the grant, we have Chinese acrobats performing. Everyone has the opportunity to learn about Chinese culture this way, and by immersing ourselves with culture, we all feel connected,” she said.

First-grade teacher Darlene Schultz said that they involve all students with the Chinese culture throughout the year, with celebrations for Chinese New Year and other activities. 

“We want all the students exposed to the culture and understand at a young age that we’re a global community,” she said. “These dual immersion students are learning more in first and second grade than some students are learning in high school, just by being immersed. By December, there will be no English spoken in their classroom and they’ll be able to understand and be able to do their assignments.”

While these students springboard into advanced learning skills at an early age, teachers realized the students will be more proficient in the real world.

“If they continue with studying Chinese, they’ll graduate with an associate’s degree while in high school. It’s giving them the extra challenge and opportunity,” first-grade teacher Claudia Peterson said.

The school applied for the grant in late winter and learned last spring they were selected as a Confucius Classroom, but decided to hold off on the celebration until Stacy was appointed to oversee the school this past summer.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity for this school,” Stacy said. “These students, parents and teachers have been so welcoming. We’re just like a family.”