ECU, Greene County Schools offer Los Puentes
(Jan. 14, 2004)
Snow Hill Primary School, working with ECU, introduced a program to address educational needs of the region's growing Spanish-speaking population.
Called Los Puentes (Bridges, in English), the dual language immersion program offers 40 kindergartners in the rural school in Greene County an opportunity to learn in both English and Spanish. Los Puentes is one of the first programs in the state to offer Spanish-English immersion classrooms. Each day, the students alternate classrooms and teachers to learn in English one day and in Spanish the next. The goal, educators say, is to have all children fluent in both languages by the time they leave primary school.
In addition to local funding and support from Greene County School District education officials, a $65,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation of Winston-Salem helped to launch the program in August.
East Carolina University geography professor Rebecca Torres, who formed the partnership, believes Los Puentes is a creative way to embrace the region's growing Spanish-speaking population and provide a new strategy to bring multiculturalism into the classroom.
"ECU has had a working relationship with Greene County Schools and I've been very interested in looking at Latino migration patterns," Torres said. "I'm interested in their level of connectivity in the community and their networks back home."
Since 1990, Greene County's Spanish-speaking population increased by 800 percent. This year, nearly 20 percent of the students in Greene County Schools, about 150 students, are native Spanish speakers.
In addition to providing a new educational opportunity for the county's English and Spanish-speaking students, the program helps researchers at ECU connect with the region's growing Spanish-speaking community. They also hope to discover best practices that will enable them to export Los Puentes to other rural schools across North Carolina.