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Mandarin Dual Language Immersion students continue to learn and thrive at Marvin Ridge Middle

MRMS DLI As is the case with most sixth grade science classes, students in Marvin Ridge Middle (MRMS) teacher Yuning Pan’s class are learning about photosynthesis.

But unlike most other sixth grade science classes, Pan’s students are learning about photosynthesis exclusively in Mandarin. That’s because this school year marked the beginning of the UCPS Dual Language Immersion program’s expansion to Sun Valley and Marvin Ridge middle schools – a groundbreaking moment for the thriving and acclaimed program that has grown leaps and bounds since its inception.

The students enrolled in the Mandarin dual language immersion program at Marvin Ridge Middle, as well as the Spanish dual language immersion program at Sun Valley Middle, made history nearly seven years ago as the first group of students to participate in the district’s immersion programs.

If you ask any of their former teachers, they will tell you that the students did more than just learn a new language during their six years in elementary school. They also spent their days increasing their global awareness, learning more about other cultures and honing their multitasking and problem-solving skills.

MRMS DLI Picture Now, at the middle school level, Pan said she is building on those acquired skills to teach the more rigorous science and social studies content.

“At the beginning of the year, I could tell their ability to understand and speak in Chinese was good,” she said. “What we are doing now is challenging because we cover a lot of content very quickly. They have to learn it in two languages at the same time.”

When asked what types of topics they are currently covering in science, Pan said they’ve already had lessons on space, Earth, matter, ecosystems and more. She and the students only speak in Mandarin during the lessons and the students also speak and write in Mandarin as they complete group projects and work.

MRMS sixth grader John Garrett said while he may have been nervous about coming to middle school, one thing he didn’t have reservations about was continuing his participation in the dual language immersion program.

“Other students are learning this in English and we’re learning it in Mandarin. So it is a little bit harder than I thought it’d be because the work is a little harder, but we’re able to keep up,” he said. “I think everything we’ve done has already prepared us for this, even though it is challenging.”

What’s important to remember, Pan said, is that her students are not simply memorizing content in another language. They have to have a deep understanding of the information because they are learning it in Mandarin and transferring that knowledge to English. 

That in-depth knowledge of what they’re learning, and not simply just learning content, is what she wants her students to take away from her classroom.

“The academic work that they’re learning now can help them have meaningful and deeper conversations with people,” she said. “They can communicate with people in China about more advanced science and social studies topics now. No matter what they want to do, I want them to be able to use this content to express themselves.”

Visit the UCPS Dual Language Immersion webpage for more information about programs at the elementary and middle school levels.

Posted: May 17, 2019