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New Bilingual Beginnings language camps to be offered this summer

May 5, 2014

EAU CLAIRE — This summer the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire department of languages will offer its new Bilingual Beginnings language immersion camps at the university's Children's Nature Academy at The Priory.

Bilingual Beginnings will offer classes in French, German and Spanish. Five two-week camps, offered from June 16-Aug. 22, will be available to students entering grades 1 and 2. Participants may choose between morning (8:15 a.m.-noon) and afternoon (12:30 p.m.-4:15 p.m.) sessions.

Dr. Carter Smith, professor of Spanish and chair of the department of languages, said one of the goals of the program is to maintain a language immersion format with a nature theme.

"A number of us thought about the possibility of summer immersion language camps that would have a curricula focused on nature. We also thought it was important to create camps that would introduce the study of languages and cultures to the area children since they are at the perfect age to begin to learn a second language, and in this way we could create some important outreach to Eau Claire and surrounding communities," Smith said.

The proposal for a Bilingual Beginnings program began in fall 2012, when results from a university survey regarding projects relating to The Priory revealed a desire for camps combining nature and language immersion. By last May, the department of languages received critical funding from the Chancellor's Office that helped put the plan into motion.

The majority of Bilingual Beginnings teachers are UW-Eau Claire language education majors with study abroad experience as well as practice working with elementary-aged children. During the spring 2014 semester, Dr. Paul Hoff, professor of Spanish, has trained the teachers in the pedagogy of immersion instruction and foreign languages.

The Eau Claire Area School District will partner with the department of languages to cover camp costs. Dr. Anne Hlas, associate professor of Spanish, recognizes the value of the collective support of the district and university.

"The Eau Claire Area School District and the university have a collaborative partnership because both recognize the potential of learning a language at a young age. Research shows that exposing children to another language improves flexibility in thinking, listening skills and understanding of native language. It also helps children gain an appreciation of other cultures," Hlas said.

In the future, the department of languages hopes to expand the program to include students through grade six as well as classes in additional languages.

The cost per two-week session is $200, plus a $25 registration fee. The Eau Claire Area School District will cover the $200 fee for any student who resides within the district. The registration deadline is May 30.

To register a child for the camp, visit https://uweauclaire.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_9ZxHNKhDajBYBY9.

For more information about the camps, contact Barbara Aronson at 715-836-2178 or aronsoba@uwec.edu.

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