Reexamining Citizenship: Best Practices of St. Louis Spanish Immersion Schools
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When introducing the concepts of citizenship in our schools, how an American citizen looks, speaks, and thinks is often presented in assumptions and stereotypes. As the demographics of the nation have shifted, these stereotypes sometimes remain the same and the new reality ignored. How can and should we teach our young children about citizenship? How are language immersion schools in particular developing global citizens? According to National Migration information, (Terrazas and Batalova 2008) in 2007, 22.9 percent of school-age children had at least one immigrant parent, 47.5 percent of which reported their background to be Hispanic or Latino. In this paper, we discuss two educational opportunities in the St. Louis area that build on the strengths of the Hispanic/Latino community and its primary language of Spanish. Casa de Niños is a preschool program built on the Montessori philosophy that primarily serves children through age 5. The St. Louis Language Immersion Schools, a nonprofit organization (http://sllis. org), is dedicated to supporting the development of a network of charter schools in the area. They are set to open a Spanish immersion school for K-1st grade in August 2009 and will be using the Primary Years International Baccalaureate program in order to promote “international mindedness” in their students (http://www.ibo.org). Specifically, SLLIS' mission is "to position all children for success in local and global economies through holistic, intellectually inspiring language immersion programs," in essence, to create global citizens. The central vision of these language immersion schools, then, is to provide both the opportunity to learn in another language and about other cultures and languages. This presentation will explain how these educational organizations work to develop language and citizenship capacities. In particular, we will explain in detail the planned service-learning community research project all SLLIS students will complete by the end of fifth grade. We will also provide best practices for addressing issues of culture and language in immersion settings designed for young children. Finally, we will discuss with the group the challenges and opportunities of designing these sorts of programs in areas of new immigration, such as many towns and small cities across the Midwest.