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Category : Academics

Experiential Extracurricular Activities Expand Cultural Awareness

Wednesday , June 26 , 2019

A well-rounded dual language immersion program includes strengthening and enhancing the curriculum that is taught in the classroom with experiential extracurricular activities for students to engage and learn more about the culture.

At Whispering Wind Academy, the Mandarin Parent Organization (MPO) works closely with the school’s administration to enhance the cultural experiences offered to students both in and out of the classroom such as celebrating Chinese New Year, after-school opportunities, community outreach, and cultural experiences.

“The mission of the MPO is to encourage and promote the dual language Mandarin immersion and enrichment world language programs to ensure that there are bilingual literacy and cultural educational opportunities that benefit all students attending Whispering Wind Academy,” said Dawn Taylor, president of the MPO.

MPO volunteers help organize and support the annual Whispering Wind Academy Chinese New Year celebration.  This tradition, in its 8th year, is a Chinese New Year Gala, including an elaborate and authentic dinner and performance, bringing together staff, students, and families for an evening of celebration.  In class, students learn about the history and traditions of the Chinese New Year, as well as the Chinese lunar calendar, and the significance of the New Year’s Eve dinner. The Chinese New Year Event showcases the culmination of classroom instruction brought to life for all to enjoy.

Learning opportunities don’t stop when the school day ends. Students are able to participate in homework groups with other students to practice Mandarin whether it’s in conversation, reading, or writing. “I believe it’s important to provide students who are learning Mandarin with opportunities outside of the classroom to practice speaking and listening skills to build confidence. At Whispering Wind Academy, we are very fortunate to have support from our MPO, which in turn, strengthens the Mandarin skills our students are working hard to develop,” said Ruth Jay, Mandarin program director and world language teacher at Whispering Wind Academy.

The MPO provides a community of support for families and students in the dual language immersion and enrichment world language programs.  Through monthly public meetings and their website, they encourage and inform students and their families on ways to participate in cultural experiences outside of the classroom. With so many local programs and festivals that have a Chinese/Asian influence, including Phoenix Chinese Week, Lantern Festival, Arizona Asian Festival, and Phoenix Night Market, students have ample opportunity to practice their language skills or learn more about the culture.  

Additionally, there are opportunities for educational travel for students and families to experience China or Taiwan through Phoenix Sister Cities Mini Youth Ambassadors Program. During these trips, students experience school days in the chosen location while parents learn more about the culture through daily excursions.  

The opportunities continue by opening your home and hosting an exchange student. Exchange programs benefit the host family, as well as the exchange student. Host families and exchange students have the chance to learn more about the other’s culture and values while the student is afforded the opportunity to explore the host city.  If you’re interested in hosting, contact the MPO or Whispering Wind Academy for more information.

PVSchools offers a Dual Language (Mandarin) Immersion Program at Whispering Wind Academy, which provides students with the pathway to achieving success in the global marketplace. If you’re interested in learning more about the Dual Language (Mandarin) Immersion Program, schedule a tour of the school by calling (602) 449-7300.

About the Author

Ruth Jay Ruth Jay is the Mandarin Program Director and World Language teacher at Whispering Wind Academy. Ms. Jay was the first Mandarin teacher at Paradise Valley Unified School District a decade ago and has been instrumental in developing the Mandarin Immersion Program at Whispering Wind Academy. She started her career as a second grade teacher at Whispering Wind Academy in 2006. Ms. Jay has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, a Masters of Education degree from Northern Arizona University and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy minoring in East Asian Studies and Law at the University of Arizona.

Ruth Jay