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Starting Spanish Education Early

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- The Cedar Rapids Community School District is continuing to put an emphasis on foreign language education. Unlike many programs in the state, however, that education is starting right at the beginning - in kindergarten.

The Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) program (http://www.cr.k12.ia.us/aboutus/curriculum/foreignLanguage/index.html) started in 2011 with kindergarten and first grade, and it's all to make sure they don't fall behind what will continue to be a changing population.

If you don't know any better, the students in this classroom at Truman Elementary looks like a class of Hispanic speaking students just having a good time.

The truth is, the English speaking group of kindergarteners has learned more Spanish in their 6 or 7 years of life than most have retained in their entire lives.

Alissa Stanton, who goes by Senora Stanton to her students, says that is the age to start sewing those seeds of knowledge.

Their language receptors are open to the learning of language, Stanton says. It's much more difficult when they're adults.

To make sure that skill sticks with them, you not only have to speak Spanish - you also have to speak kindergartener.

We do a lot of singing and dancing, Stanton says. That's just the best way to get them excited about the language and excited about the learning.

Edwin Alvarado, the Hispanic Community Fellow with Diversity Focus, says that teaching is important.

It's impossible to stop the Latino growth in this country, Alvarado said.

He says the signs are there. In 2010, West Liberty became the first city to be majority Hispanic. In addition, the overall Hispanic population in Iowa grew by 95 percent between 2000 and 2012.

In short - your son or daughter's best friend in school may one day be a Spanish speaker.

So if we don't start the children right now, part of the population will be lost, Alvarado said.

The district began introducing Spanish to one grade per year. By 2015, all K through 5 students will have Spanish. Eventually the program will move into the middle schools as well.
 
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