Bear Creek to pilot Spanish instruction
Wednesday, 28 May 2014 13:22

Fourth-graders to take Spanish classes this fall

by Nicole Rodman

    As technology connects the world in ways unimaginable just 20 years ago, it is more important than ever for students to have exposure to the wider world.
    In an effort to make students more competitive in an increasingly global marketplace, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) is piloting a fourth-grade Spanish instruction program at 10 county schools.
    One of the schools chosen for the pilot program, set to begin next school year, is Bear Creek Elementary School.
    BCPS chose the 10 schools from among 31 schools that applied for the program.
    Interested schools submitted applications and surveys of teacher interest. The final 10 schools were chosen by a review panel.
    “The 10 selected schools are located throughout Baltimore County, and the review panel took great care to identify a cadre of schools that truly represent the racial, ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of our school system,” Brian Schiffer, BCPS director of social sciences, fine arts and world languages, said in a press release.
    According to Bear Creek principal Cheryl Thim, when her fourth-grade teachers heard about the pilot program, they urged her to apply.

“We are very excited about World Languages being offered in the elementary schools and wanted to be part of the pilot,” Thim told The Eagle last week.
    “We love the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of new initiatives and to be able to give feedback about what works and what opportunities need to be re-evaluated.”
    As Thim noted, elementary Spanish language instruction will provide numerous benefits for students.
    “Students who acquire a second language are better prepared for college and more marketable in a global economy,” she noted.
    In addition, Thim explained, with an ever-growing population of Spanish-speaking students at Bear Creek (and across the county), Spanish language instruction will help students “learn about and appreciate other cultures.”
    “Our small group of Spanish-speaking students were part of our application process,” Thim said. “They think it would be wonderful for their peers to learn about their language and their culture.”
    The new Spanish curriculum will consist of online training through the Middlebury Interactive Program as well as instruction from a BCPS World Language teacher, who will visit each class once a week.
    Instruction will focus largely on listening and speaking.
    While fourth-grade teachers may get the opportunity to become familiar with the curriculum over the summer, they will largely be learning the language with their students.
    BCPS plans to introduce Spanish language instruction to all fourth grade classes by the 2015-2016 school year.
    Eventually, Thim noted, the program will likely be expanded to include fifth-graders as well.
    “Our fifth-graders do not take Spanish, but after the fourth-graders pilot the program, they will continue it into fifth grade, so, in the future, I believe it is our system vision that all fourth and fifth-graders will take a second language,” she explained.
    The other schools chosen for the pilot program include Hampton, Johnnycake, Padonia, Pleasant Plains, Prettyboy, Reisterstown, Sussex, Vincent Farm and West Towson elementary schools.