BILINGUAL SCHOOLS ON THE RISE IN PITTSBURGH
March 7, 2015 NEXT Wave
According to the United States Census, between 2000 and 2013, the number of foreign-born residents in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County increased by over 20% and 27%, respectively. While the share of immigrant population is still lagging behind the national average (8% in Pittsburgh vs. 13% national average), we are finally seeing positive net migration after many years of the opposite.
With this trend of more foreign-born residents, we are also seeing an increase in demand for foreign language education—specifically bilingual school options for children. Mandarin and Spanish are two of the most spoken languages in the world so it’s no surprise that two of the most established bilingual schools in the City are immersion programs in those languages.
La Escuelita Arcoiris, a Spanish immersion preschool in Squirrel Hill was founded 15 years ago and started with only seven kids. Today, the school has five classrooms with over 60 kids enrolled. The Pittsburgh Chinese School, a weekend Chinese immersion program that was founded in 1977, has expanded into a school that offers programming for students in K-12 and has 300 students enrolled.
Thomas Buell, Director of Development at Global Pittsburgh, an organization that aims to connect Pittsburgh to the international community, is inspired by these trends. “I consider it an encouraging sign that Pittsburgh is becoming a more international city. More schools that offer foreign language learning brings benefits to all the people of Pittsburgh.
“We have a global economy and relate to a global culture. The more awareness our children have of this as they grow, the better they will be in their education and careers.”
The Pittsburgh Public Schools have magnet programs that offer foreign language exposure. For elementary students, Linden offers German and Mandarin, Fulton offers French, and Liberty and Philips offer Spanish. Obama, an International Baccalaureate program offers middle school programs for Japanese, French, German and Spanish.
Tara McElfresh, whose children have been attending Linden since Kindergarten, is pleased with the school’s German language program. “Kids who attend Linden from K through 5th expect to have some working proficiency in German—enough so that they can “get by” when traveling to a native-speaking country. My daughter, who is in fifth grade, certainly has that.”
The benefits of a bilingual education is not limited to its utility in communication. Many recent studies have shown that bilingualism has profound effects on brain development, “improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.”
This year, a new group of instructors from the University of Pittsburgh have founded an Italian language school that aims to give students educational programming that will be accredited both in the United States and the European Union.
Angela Hertz, co-founder and Executive Director of La Scuola d’Italia Galileo Galilei, says that aside from fostering bilingualism, the school also looks to preserve immigrants’ native language speaking abilities. “We have noticed a loss of language skills in one generation. My co-founders and I are Italians and yet we needed to study and live in Italy for some time to perfect our language ability. We want to pass that on to the next generation.”
The group currently offers extra-curricular programming to 80 adults and children and holds classes at Winchester Thurston in Shadyside. La Scuola is looking to open a preschool and early childhood immersion school within two years with a vision to offer elementary and middle school programming soon thereafter.
With a fast growing foreign-born population, immersion schools are planning for a significant increase in demand in the next few years. Ellen Tafel, La Escuelita’s Director of Operations, says the school is actively planning for the future. “We have an established high-quality preschool immersion program,” she says. “However, we want to be able to identify ways we can continue to operate and offer our program to a more diversified clientele–primarily underserved native Spanish speakers in the Pittsburgh region.”
bilingual schools in pittsburgh la escuelita arcoiris pittsburgh chinese school
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leah Lizarondo Editor at Large
Leah Lizarondo is the editor of our NEXT Wave section and a feature story writer. She is also Chief Veghacker, recipe creator and curator at The Brazen Kitchen, where she writes about food and food policy. She is interested in the intersection of food, health, innovation and urban policy.
[NEXTpittsburgh logo] EVENTS
Photo courtesy of the Heinz History Center
Ciao! Heinz History Center debuts Italian Heritage Day
September 30, 2014
Events, Kidsburgh Pittsburgh
Heinz History Center
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Little Italy Days may have come and gone, but the celebration of Italian heritage continues this weekend in the Burgh. On Sunday, October 5th, help kick off National Italian Heritage Month at the Senator John Heinz History Center in the Strip.
Hosting its inaugural Italian Heritage Day festivities, the Heinz History Center invites visitors of all ages to enjoy a day filled with interactive and multi-sensory cultural activities. All children ages 17 and under will receive free admission to the special family-friendly event.
Ready to say ciao? Explore Italian American history and culture as you learn basic Italian vocabulary with La Scuola d’Italia Galileo Galilei and then record your own family memories and oral history with Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh.
What would an Italian celebration be without the food, right? Taste delish Italian cuisine from Pittsburgh vendors, including Mercurio’s, Mancini’s, The Common Plea, The Olive Tap, MixStirs Café and more. Step into the Center’s Weisbrod Kitchen Classroom to sample fresh ingredients from traditional Italian American fare during demos led by Slow Food Pittsburgh. Next, discover traditional farming techniques used in Old World Italy, such as sorting bean seeds and making gnocchi, along with the local Italian Garden Project.
Ready to get active? Test your skills on the bocce court with tips from Major League Bocce members, and sway to the sweet sounds of roaming musician Edwardo the Accordionist.
Tu e la tua famiglia are also invited to delve into your personal family heritage and lineage, as you build your own family tree and learn the meaning of your Italian family name in the History Center’s Detre Library & Archives.
Head up to the 5th floor of the Mueller Center to visit an Italian American bazaar filled with vendors and outreach tables. Explore the offerings of local Italian heritage groups, including Roots in the Boot, University of Pittsburgh’s Italian Nationality Room, Lucchesi Nel Mondo, Mondo Italiano, Societa Dante Alighieri, Ciao Pittsburgh, Mosites Motorsports and Animal Friends of Pittsburgh.
Brady Smith with the Senator John Heinz History Center says that Italian Heritage Day is expected to become an annual event. Sponsored by Mascaro Construction, the event is presented by the History Center’s Italian American collection, which is dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Italian Americans in Western Pennsylvania. One of the largest in the country, the collection—which was founded in 1990—houses artifacts, archival materials and oral histories that document the pivotal role Italian Americans have played in shaping the region.
Heinz History Center Italian Heritage Day
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jennifer Baron
Arts + Events editor
Former arts & culture editor of Pop City; worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art. Co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvaniaand co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. In a band called The Garment District; founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.
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