New Spanish immersion preschool launches in Atherton News

Julia, left, and Samara, center, read a book together while Madison, a classmate, walks by in the Spanish immersion program at Lower Laurel School in Atherton on Dec. 6, 2022. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Just a few months into a new Spanish immersion program in the Early Learning Center, 4-year-old Emma has developed an accent in the language and is having an easier time understanding movies she watches in Spanish. Emma speaks French at home, said her father Thomas.

“They pick it up so fast,” said Thomas, noting that what really impresses him is not just the range of her vocabulary but the pronunciation. He hopes Emma can continue into Spanish immersion when she enrolls in kindergarten in the Menlo Park City School District.

Emma is one of the preschoolers enrolled in the Early Learning Center’s new Spanish immersion classroom, Colibrís, which means hummingbirds in Spanish, at Lower Laurel School in Atherton.

The program came about because families expressed interest in a Spanish immersion program, said Early Learning Center Director Chana Stewart. The majority of the curriculum and daily routines are conducted in Spanish by native Spanish-speaking teachers.

The students, ages 3 to 5, learn about different Spanish-speaking cultures and the class is a mix of native speakers and language learners. The school strives to enroll a balance of Spanish-speaking children and children who don’t yet speak Spanish. There is a lead teacher and an aide for the 16 children.

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