July 25, 2004
At Kachina Country Day School in Paradise Valley, preschoolers are going to be learning how to speak Mandarin while learning their ABCs.
Children, ages 2 to 4, will learn about the culture, language and traditions of China at the school’s new Chinese Cultural Program starting Sept. 1.
Christopher Kline, executive director of the site that offers a private preschool and a public charter school, said he started thinking about offering this type of program a year ago, after adopting his first of two children from China two years ago.
"We belong to Families with Children from China, which is a group for parents that have adopted children from China," Kline said. "Parents there started requesting that I start something like this."
He said when a child from China is adopted, the parents make a commitment to the country to support the culture.
There are eight kids registered for the class that can take up to 15 students, but if more than that register, Kline plans to open up a second classroom. Of the eight, six are Chinese, one is Vietnamese and one is white.
Lilia Meredith will teach the traditional preschool curriculum such as the alphabet, colors and shapes in English. Hsiang Shen will teach the students the same in Mandarin.
"I will also help them recognize Chinese letters," said Shen, a Chandler resident who lived in Taiwan until she was 25 and moved to the United States in 1989. "When they learn the seasons, I will also teach them the Chinese festivals and holidays that take place during those seasons."
Meredith, a Scottsdale resident, said she knows firsthand the need to keep children aware of their culture. She said she moved here from Mexico when she was 5 and spoke only Spanish.
"Then in all of my classes, I had to speak English, and I lost a lot of the Spanish language," she said. "If it is not introduced and the children aren’t reminded about their culture, they will forget about it."
Kline said he plans to start a kindergarten class with the Chinese emphasis next year and add a grade each year.