Northfield’s Christian Heritage Academy hosts Chinese immersion camp
The Christian Heritage Academy in Northfield is holding a new Chinese language and culture immersion camp at the school. Shown from right to left at the camp-Annabelle Wong, Sarah Jjang, Emily Huang and Grace Yu. | Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media
Updated: June 25, 2012 4:57PM
A group of ambitious students in Northfield can cross off “learn a new language” on their summer to-do list.
Christian Heritage Academy is the newest site of the federally funded Startalk Chinese Immersion Nurture Program.
Created as part of the National Security Language Initiative announced by former President George W. Bush in January of 2006, and the National Foreign Language Center with the University of Maryland, the program is expanding in Illinois. Through the Consortium of Illinois Language Schools, four other school sites in Illinois host the Startalk program, including Downers Grove, Lisle, Naperville, and Plainfield. Fred Yungshen Lu is President and Director of Startalk Nurture Program in Illinois and oversees the state’s sites that make up more than 100 students.
After the Gulf War, there was an increasing need for Americans to become bilingual in critical need foreign languages. Startalk “seeks to expand and improve the teaching and learning of strategically important world languages that are not now widely taught in the US”. Languages offered nationally through Startalk include Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu. Through innovative summer programs across the country, teachers are becoming trained in language curriculum and students are developing important communicative skills.
Christian Heritage Academy became involved after increased local interest in the Startalk program and the lack of an eastern Illinois location.
“This program gives students a global vision of who they are,” said Grace Chang, a Christian Heritage Academy parent and qualified teacher who oversees the Northfield program.
At Christian Heritage Academy, the inaugural Chinese language-specific summer session of Startalk runs daily from June 11 through June 29 from 12:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Four teachers and two teacher assistants instruct 20 students ranging in age from fourth grade through ninth grade. The program culminates in 60 hours of instruction in the Chinese language and culture, all for a registration fee of $100. Any student in the area wishing to register in the program is welcome; the camp is not limited to full-time Christian Heritage students.
The immersion camp days at Startalk are full of interactive learning and dynamic language preparation. Every day begins with a review session, and then the younger and older children are separated into two classrooms for optimal learning. Sitting at desks with name cards displaying their Chinese names written out phonetically and with characters, the students are eager to learn. By practicing to write Chinese characters with authentic Chinese paint brushes, the students become more familiar with the Mandarin language. They are also able to hone their speaking skills through peer group exercises such as playing educational games. Both Chang and Lu explained that sounding out simple words in the often-challenging language help make sentences more meaningful for students and connect the sub-parts to create the whole of the language expression.
The program combines traditional teacher lectures and also utilizes online learning tools with language programs to help students learn typing skills. Lu explained the five C’s illustrating the mission behind Startalk’s focus: Connection, Communication, Culture, Comparison and Community.
The program emphasizes combining culture and language with classroom activities such as making dumplings, Chinese painting lessons, and making Chinese spun sugar treats called Dragon beard candy. “The more you understand another culture, the more you understand your own culture,” Lu said.
The parent feedback has been positive so far in Northfield as the kids are enjoying the program. On June 29 at 2:30 p.m., there will be a closing ceremony at Christian Heritage Academy. Parents, family and friends are invited to the program that will showcase the students’ learning progress including a montage of pictures from camp, skits to demonstrate their language skills, and a dragon dancing performance. Lu hopes as part of Startalk’s continuation strategy, Christian Heritage Academy can become the site of an after-school language program during the school year, as the school has no current Chinese curriculum.