Chinese immersion school approved in Verona - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Chinese immersion school approved in Verona


FITCHBURG (WKOW) -- Like any parent, Patricia Codde and Teresa Mueller of Fitchburg want what's best for their children.

After months of research, they believe the best education is taught in English and Chinese.

That's why they are founding Wisconsin's first-ever Chinese-language immersion program. Come September, Stoner Prairie Elementary in Fitchburg will be the spot where east meets west.

A pilot class of 22 kindergartners and first-graders will learn half of their lessons in Mandarin.

"China is going to be a force in tomorrow's economy. There are predictions that China is going to be the largest economy in the world in the next 10 to 15 years," said Codde.

Minnesota has a few different Chinese immersion programs that are much like the one proposed in the Verona School District.

The schools employ native Chinese teachers to instruct math and sometimes science or social studies classes.

Codde says this is about more than learning Chinese; research shows language development and overall brain development are intertwined.

"Their problem solving skills, their ability to form concepts and their mental flexibility are actually greater than students who haven't been learning language in an immersion setting," said Codde.

Plus, it's important to start early, while a child's language receptors are still developing. That's why these mothers, who will each have a first-grade son in the new immersion program, are ready for the program to start this fall and their kids are excited, too.

"He says he wants to learn Chinese so he can go to China with his dad and translate for him," said Mueller.

Eventually, Codde and Mueller plan to add additional language tracks, like Arabic or Spanish, hoping to make it a truly international school.

"I want my kids to have the benefit of being educated as a global citizen, preparing them for a world that's going to look very different than today's world," said Codde.

Certain members of the Verona school board were concerned that the program might take away resources from a proposed 4-year-old kindergarten program.

The founders say that is not the case, and the program will be eligible to compete for a number of federal education grants of up to $150,000.

Online reporting by Jamie Hersch
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