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Scottsdale School Plans Mandarin Immersion Program, Starting in Kindergarten

Kristin Kinghorn with students in China
(Photo courtesy of Kristin Kinghorn)
Desert Canyon Elementary School principal Kristin Kinghorn learns calligraphy with students at a school in China.

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken first language in the world, and fluency could mean more opportunities in the workforce. That’s why some parents here want their kids to speak it, too — even if they don’t speak it themselves.

“It’s a little bit intimidating. But I do realize this is a changing world and we need to support our children. And if this is what’s the right thing for them in terms of their personal development, you’re willing to stretch,” said Maria Aldrich, who attended a recent meeting at Desert Canyon Elementary School in Scottsdale.

She’s planning to enroll her daughter in the school’s new Mandarin Dual Immersion Program, which starts next school year.

Students will spend half of each day being taught in Mandarin. That led parent Jennifer D’Costa to wonder what homework help will be like.

“It’s going to be a challenge, you know, recognizing, has he learned what he needs to learn? As well as, is he learning the Mandarin properly? Because I don’t any Mandarin to be able to help him,” she said. 

Students who opt in to the program will learn math, science and Chinese Language Arts from a native Mandarin speaker teaching only in Mandarin; the other half of the day would be spent on reading, writing and social studies in English. The Show’s Mark Brodie spoke with Kristin Kinghorn, principal at Desert Canyon Elementary, about why she chose to start this program.

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Annika Cline was a producer for KJZZ's The Show from 2014 to 2019.