The cuteness factor of the weekly Mount Airy Rotary Club luncheon spiked sharply on Tuesday when a group of Tharrington Elementary School kindergartners filed into the dining room at Cross Creek Country Club.
About 25 students in the dual-language immersion program had been bused to the meeting to make a short presentation demonstrating their Spanish reading and speaking skills.
Their teacher, Nora Santillan, gave a brief overview of the program, which is in its first year at the school.
She noted that about 20 percent of the students in the class are Hispanic and 80 percent English speaking.
“The only language we speak is Spanish from day one,” she said. “It’s difficult because some of them are speaking Spanish for the first time.”
Difficult but far from impossible — that’s the point of the program.
“Learning when young is easiest,” said Santillan. “We are very proud in our school with the results we’re having with these kids.”
When the students start first grade, 20 percent of instruction will be in English. That percentage increases as the students progress through the grades, with the end goal of fluency in both languages.
One student, Nathan Haynes, served as a young Spanish-speaking master of ceremonies.
During the presentation students sang songs in Spanish and read from books written in Spanish.
Despite the foreign language, the material was likely familiar to the Rotarians present at the meeting. Among the selections were the song “El Viejo MacDonald Tenía Una Granja,” which in English is “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”
The students took turns reading “La Oruga Muy Hambrienta” (The Very Hungry Caterpiller).
The dual-lanugage immersion class still follows the same curriculum as the other kindergarten classes, which learn about life cycles in the spring time.
Reflecting that, two students read books about the life cycles of two different creatures.
Corbin Kerley read aloud “La Vida de una Rana” (The Life of a Frog) and Harper Leathers read aloud “La Vida de una Mariposa,”(The Life of a Butterfly).
Concluding the presentation, Haynes said, “Muchas gracias por su invitación. Thank you very much for the invitation.”
After Santillan fielded a few questions, Rotary member Barbi Manchester, whose son is in the class, informally shared her perspective with the group.
“It’s a great program,” she said. “I’ve been impressed with the teachers, and it’s amazing the progress and how fast they pick up on it.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.