Not only are Paint Branch Elementary students learning about condensation and evaporation this quarter, they’re learning about it in Chinese.
Paint Branch’s Chinese STEM Program is in its second year and expanded in September to include second-graders at the College Park elementary school. The College Park City Council approved a $6,000 grant on Feb. 11 that will help expand the school’s Chinese program further by funding special cultural field trips and performances.
The Chinese STEM Program teaches students science and math concepts in the Chinese language, said Emmett Hendershot, Paint Branch’s principal. The program involved only kindergarten and first grade students last year, he said.
“The goal is to extend [the program every year] at least so that every grade level in the building gets to receive some sort of Chinese instruction,” he said.
There are now approximately 125 students involved in the program, Hendershot said.
Paint Branch was one of two area schools to receive a College Park city grant on Feb. 11. The other was Greenbelt Middle School, which received $6,500 for a College Awareness Project.
Amy Feng is the Chinese STEM teacher for all three grades involved in the program and also teaches the Chinese language to Paint Branch sixth-graders. Feng says she teaches nearly 100 percent of the STEM class content in Chinese and that students are quick to pick up on the science concepts and terms.
“I use a lot of pictures and movement,” she said. “They’re great. They are really quick at grasping the vocabulary, new sounds and concepts.”
Feng said her current students will have an advantage once they reach the upper level Chinese language course.
“These children that have the immersion time with me and with former teachers when they are younger [will] progress much faster than the older kids,” she said.
Carolyn Bernache is the chairperson of the College Park Education Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the College Park council regarding school grants.
Bernache said Paint Branch applied for a grant of up to $7,500, the largest grant of its kind.
“[Paint Branch is] one of the schools that service a very large number of College Park students,” she said. “What we try to do is discuss if what the school is asking for will support a variety of students and really fulfill a need the [school] has.”
Hendershot said most of the new grant will help expand the Chinese program, while some of the funds will go towards other cultural opportunities, such as Black History Month events.
“It will allow us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do,” he said.
Hendershot said he has personally witnessed the success of the Chinese STEM program.
“You can see the kids picking up on the language. You can see the kids understanding the instruction,” he said. “I see that the community here likes the program. I can see as an administrator it is an effective program.”