Third and fourth grade students are diving into Spanish language learning through a new program this year at Central Park Elementary School in Monett.
According to Elementary School Principal Annette Cozort, students are learning the language through the popular Rosetta Stone series, which utilizes dynamic immersion, learning the language through real images, intuition, interactivity and instruction.
"Research says that kids learn more quickly," Cozort said. "It's more difficult for adults to learn as they get older."
The move is an effort to prepare students for a growing global community.
"We chose Spanish, because it is the most vital second language used today," Cozort said. "We're thinking of having a pilot program where a handful of students will also learn Mandarin Chinese, which is the next up-and-coming language in the global community."
Cozort said an added benefit to students learning a second language is their improvement in their primary language -- English.
"A number of our Spanish-speaking students are also learning from the program," Cozort said. "While they are conversationally competent in Spanish, many are not strong grammatically or have never seen it written. This is improving their reading comprehension skills as well."
The self-paced program allows students to utilize their online experience to learn the language comfortably.
"We start with the basics and move through the process of learning the language," Cozort said. "There is no memorization of the alphabet. They start off using the language immediately.
"Teachers inform me that students are starting to use conversational phrases among themselves, now," she continued. "Students are not graded at this point, but we do look at their reports and the levels they are working at."
Monett R-1 School District is the first in the Big 8 Conference to institute a foreign language elective at such an early grade. If the program is successful, Brad Hanson, assistant superintendent for the district, hopes the board will approve funding to continue teaching more advanced levels in the and fifth grade and beyond.
"At this time, I believe we are the only school district in the area to have foreign language in the elementary school," Hanson said. "There may be some private schools or home-schooled students taking foreign language, but we are not aware of it.
"We hope to continue to fund the program as students move toward high school," Hanson said. "We plan to evaluate their success at the end of the year and go from there. We first have to make sure it's successful at the third and fourth grade levels."
"These kids love to learn," Cozort added. "They love being on the computer. Students are loving the program and are giving their best. They're taking it seriously.
"We have a huge number of parents interested in having their child learn a second language," Cozort said. "They think it will help them in the long run."