Students at NorthElementary School in MonongaliaCounty are expanding their horizons while learning the Spanish language and culture through a collaborative program funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The program, titled”WVU/Guanajuato, Mexico Language and Cultural Education Capacity Building Partnership,”is being directed by the West Virginia University Extension Service and the WVU Department of Foreign Languages. Linda Super, special education teacher, Anita Nedeff, English as Second Language teacher, and Donna Talerico, principal, are coordinating the project.

The innovative language program at North, which started in September and was fully implemented in January, teaches Spanish to students in kindergarten through second grade using a children’s public television program titled”Salsa.”Each episode of the 42-week series is communicated in Spanish and based on a familiar children’s story, which lets the children better relate to the program.

After each class has viewed the program, a small group of WVU students visits the classrooms and leads activities, such as puppet shows and animated games, to reinforce the program’s language and cultural concepts. Several parents, whose first language is Spanish, also serve as classroom volunteers.

This volunteer experience enhances the college students’teaching and language skills while contributing a valuable service to their community. The college students are supervised by Dr. Dara Shaw, director of special programs, Intensive English Program, WVU Department of Foreign Languages.

Through the project’s success, the department has developed a course titled”Foreign Language Service Learning and Field Experiences,”which grants the college students credit for their mentoring experience.

North Elementary is unique within MonongaliaCounty’s school system because about 25 percent of its student population speaks English as a second language. This Spanish language program complements the school’s existing language arts programs.

The program has been enthusiastically received by the children, parents, teachers, community members and administrators involved in the program. A similar program has been used at FortGay and GenoaElementary Schools in WayneCounty for more than two years, and has earned statewide and national recognition.

“The students have proven to be a very receptive audience,”said Richard Fleisher, WVU Extension specialist, international programs.”They are learning a lot from the videos, their classroom teachers and volunteers, and the college student mentors. I commend North Elementary’s administration and staff for their progressive approach toward implementing this language program.”

This is one of four projects involving WVU and MonongaliaCounty school students being funded through the foundation.