Chinese Immersion Program growing strong as an ox
College Gardens boasts 99 students in classes in fourth year
Spenser Li/Special to the Gazette
Dressed in colorful silk dresses and outfits embroidered with flowers and designs, students from College Garden Elementary School rang in the Lunar New Year with song and dance Thursday afternoon – a tribute to the Year of the Ox and to the school's Chinese Immersion Program, now in its fourth year.
"They look forward to the celebration every year and performing for their peers," said Michael Dushel, immersion program coordinator for the Rockville school.
College Garden's Chinese Immersion Program began in 2005 with kindergarten and first grade students and has grown to include fourth grade, he said. Ninety-nine students from all over the county are enrolled this year.
"The program is growing," Dushel said. "Especially now that we'll have a full enrollment of kindergarten through fifth grade next year — it really increases our numbers."
The program implements Mandarin Chinese into the students' curriculum; they study mathematics, social studies and science in that language.
New this year is that students receive one hour of language instruction per week, Dushel said.
"We are very fortunate to have a visiting teacher from China who is providing that instruction," he said.
The program has become so popular that families have to enter into a lottery system to enroll their students. Potomac Elementary School and Herbert Hoover Middle School in Potomac also offer Chinese Immersion Programs.
Next year, College Garden's program will accept 25 students into its kindergarten class and will also have slots open in the third, fourth and fifth grades, Dushel said. Students hoping to fill openings in the upper grades will be required to take a language proficiency test.
Dushel said he thinks the program is gaining popularity because more parents want their children to become multilingual.
"Many people are recognizing that we live in a global society and the importance of being multilingual," he said. "This program gives children a head start in learning a language when they can really absorb it."
Silver Spring resident Gegi Leeger said she loves that her daughter, Rose, a second-grader, is involved in the program.
"My daughter is adopted from China, so we wanted to expose her to her birth culture and we also wanted her to learn another language because it's so good for brain development," she said.
Julie Furgerson, also of Silver Spring, said her family lived in Korea until her son, Bradley, was almost 3 years old.
"We already had those ties to Asia, so we wanted to strengthen them," she said. "The immersion program has surpassed all of our expectations and my son loves being in the program."
College Gardens Elementary School's Chinese Immersion Program will hold an open house for interested families at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Parents and students will receive information about the program and a tour of the school. College Gardens is located at 1700 Yale Place in Rockville. For more information, call 301-279-8470.