Former Campbell County Commissioner and Gillette City Councilman Stephen F. Hughes, 66, was found dead inside his business, Landmark Inc., early Friday morning, according to information released by …
CASPER, Wyo. — The second-graders circled around squares of paper with different colors a few inches apart on the floor.
Each clutched a smaller, paper square and leaned forward, waiting for the teacher to name a color and, if it matched his or her own, be the first to touch the corresponding color in the middle.
The game would be a simple test of speed — if the colors weren't given in Mandarin Chinese, foreign to the American students eagerly trying to win stickers for being the first to the square.
Teacher Ning Zhao, originally from China, said the color twice before a few students jumped up and lunged at the papers on the floor.
"Lán sè," she repeated. The students, holding green pieces of paper, were incorrect.
Not "lù sè," Zhao said, "lán sè."
A few seconds later, three students realized they held blue (lán sè) papers in their hands and lunged forward.
Things move fast in the Chinese language immersion program offered this summer through the Natrona County School District. Lessons are planned and taught by native speakers, and class is conducted solely in Chinese — crucial to the structure of the camp, funded through the STARTALK program of the federal Department of Defense.
The first two-week session, for students entering first and second grades, started earlier this month at Park Elementary School. A second session for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders begins July 25.
Students were chosen by lottery, and all sections filled up, said Doris Waddell, principal at Park Elementary School.
Waddell was one of several district educators to visit language immersion programs in Utah last year. The programs teach math, social studies and literacy in English and French, Chinese or Spanish.
Research shows being bilingual increases brain activity, said Marty Chen, a Utah teacher working in Casper this summer.
"They've become problem solvers and not dependent on other people," Chen said.
Chen, from Taiwan, attended college in the U.S. and taught elementary school — in English — for six years before teaching in Chinese at an immersion school.
Chen said teaching in Chinese is harder than teaching in English, which isn't her first language.
"You have to treat the kids like newborn babies," Chen said.
Chen said she can't just say, "sit down," she has to move the chair and pretend to sit or else they might think the word is referring to the chair's color or other attribute.
The lessons build connections with words and actions, phrases and facial expressions. Zhao began the color lesson by describing a family of puppets, including other vocabulary words for review.
Earlier, students learned to speak, read and write numbers — and then counted in those numbers.
As early as 2012-13, a few Natrona County classrooms could be taught in dual immersion, said Mark Mathern, associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
A program would require at least two classes in the same grade, each spending half a day in a second language.
"This is a foot in the door for the public and our board to see the value gained for kids learning this second language during this early time in their lives before any neural pruning has occurred," Mathern said.
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com