Blue Valley kindergartners take on English and Mandarin in district’s first Chinese immersion program

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Most of us only know how to speak one language well, but a group of kindergartners in the Blue Valley School District are raising the bar.

From the moment you walk into Claire Pan’s classroom, you can tell it’s unique. A group of kindergartners at Wolf Springs Elementary are part of Blue Valley School District’s first Chinese immersion program.

Natalie Miller is just five years old. As she learns the basics of reading and writing in English, she’s also learning how to speak and write the intricate Mandarin language.

Natalie’s Chinese teacher is impressed with how much all her students have grown in the past six months.

“They can communicate the language with me. They understand. They show their interest in learning this language and culture. That’s the happiest thing for me,” Pan said.

5-year-old Natalie Miller teaches FOX 4’s Kera Mashek a bit of Mandarin.

Students spend about half their day in English and the other half in Chinese. They learn every subject — from reading and writing to history and math — in both languages.

“It’s kind of like cool and kind of, like, nice that we get to speak a different language,” Natalie said.

Some of the students have native Chinese speakers at home, but many, including Natalie, don’t.

Natalie’s mom admited that’s made her nervous but said the friendships formed with other Chinese immersion families has made a world of difference. She also knows this experience will serve her daughter well for years to come.

“I think the flexibility in not only learning a language but different learning styles will definitely help with that global language and global world and being able to operate without borders, really in job searches and educational opportunities,” said Kelly Miller, Natalie’s mom.

And next year, even more Blue Valley students will get this opportunity. The district is expanding its Chinese immersion program to also include Valley Park Elementary.

“I think the sky’s the limit for these kiddos,” Miller said.

The program is set up for students to participate through fifth grade. Enrollment applications for the Chinese immersion program are open to Blue Valley families now through March 31. You can learn more here and apply here.



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