More than half the world’s population is now bilingual. Acknowledging that bilingualism can play a vital role in encouraging flexibility of mind and empathy within a multicultural community, Project Most is now offering Spanish language classes for students in kindergarten through fourth grade.
The classes, which began on April 23 and will run through June (a summer schedule is being considered), are held on Saturday mornings at Project Most’s Community Learning Center at the Neighborhood House on Three Mile Harbor Road. Classes run from 9 to 9:40 a.m. for kindergartners through second grade, and from 9:45 to 10:25 a.m. for third and fourth graders.
Rebecca Morgan Taylor, the executive director of Project Most, a nonprofit organization offering extracurricular enrichment programs, said that the decision to offer Spanish classes to young learners came about in response to community feedback.
“This was a class that parents had expressed interest for us to offer,” said Ms. Morgan Taylor. “And so we did find a teacher. She’s a native Spanish speaker but is fluent in both English and Spanish. So she’s truly bilingual. And, she’s a teaching assistant at one of the local schools.”
Ms. Morgan Taylor explained that classes will be focused on small group instruction, “with lots of personalized attention.”
“I’m a believer that all kids now should be bilingual the way the world is going. And it’s best to start a language program when children are young, and not wait until they’re in middle school or high school,” she added.
One school that is dedicated to helping children develop their bilingual skills is the John M. Marshall Elementary School in East Hampton. It offers two language programs for its students, both of which are optional. The first is a much-lauded, dual-language program for kindergarten through second grade that was introduced in the 2019-20 school year. Children split their school days learning all subjects in English and Spanish.
“We are teaching content in both English and Spanish to both native English language learners and native Spanish speakers,” explained Karen Kuneth, the school’s principal, adding that the program will include third grade next year. “The goal in that program is for students to become biliterate and bilingual. So, to be able to listen, speak, read, and write in two languages. We come as close as we can to a 50-50 split throughout the day, so students get half their day in English and the other half in Spanish,” Ms. Kuneth said.
The school also has Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) classes, a New York State-certified foreign language program that teaches conversational Spanish to students in prekindergarten through fifth grade, either two or three times a week.
Language experts believe that with more high-quality, long-term dual-language programs, the achievement gap in literacy between English learners and native English speakers can be bridged after five to six years, according to research conducted by Cambridge University.
Until other schools on the East End offer programs such as John Marshall’s (the Southampton School District also runs a dual-language program), parents can look to classes like the ones at Project Most to give their kids a boost in Spanish language learning. Ms. Morgan Taylor is hopeful that the classes will be popular enough to continue into the future. Registration is online at projectmost.org. Classes cost $20 per session.