The Spanish Immersion Program (SIP) at Moravian Academy was initially launched in 2014 with a kindergarten class. This year, there are 57 students in kindergarten through third grade enrolled in the program — with one immersion class for each grade.
 
The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition at the University of Minnesota found a well-established positive correlation between bilingualism and divergent thinking skills, pattern recognition, and problem-solving in young people. Dr. Ellen Bialystok, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, also found that bilinguals have a stronger executive control system in the brain, which allows them to selectively focus on what is necessary and not get distracted. This, among other research, helped to mold the school’s program.
“Students who are given the opportunity to express themselves in more than one language will likely experience many advantages if they begin and develop these skills early on — as early as possible — at infancy or toddlerhood being the ideal starting point for second language acquisition,” said Melika Matlack, the academy’s lead Spanish Immersion kindergarten teacher. “The importance of learning a language at a young age is crucial for tapping into improved cognitive skills and hone the basic capacity to fluently speak them.”
 
SIP is considered a “strand” program, Matlack noted, which means it’s an immersion program within a non-immersion school. She added that this offers families interested in fostering bilingualism and biculturalism in their child the option to do so while still benefiting from a Moravian Academy education. Students in SIP receive all homeroom instruction (math, social studies, and language arts) in Spanish, while specials (music, gym, art, science, and library) are taught by English-speaking teachers.
 

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