APOPKA, Florida. – A Central Florida school teaches students about different cultures and languages even before some students have learned to walk.
Apopka’s Star Child Academy teaches 100 elementary school students how to read, write and speak a foreign language. The languages are not among the most common, such as Spanish or French. Instead, students learn Russian, Chinese, and Arabic, which may seem more difficult mainly because of their alphabet.
“The world is growing, you know? Our world is changing. People need to be more in tune with each other’s cultures,” said Aria Williams-Hatcher, who has a son in third grade.
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Williams-Hatcher said it was amazing that the children had the chance to learn more difficult languages.
“We’re amazed. We didn’t have those opportunities when we were kids, you know? School was a little different back then,” Williams-Hatcher said.
Cindy Zimmerman, the owner of the school, said they teach what they believe are the strategic languages of the future.
News 6 at Nine’s Carolina Cardona was a guest at the school’s Arab American Heritage Month celebration last week.
During the event, students of different grades performed the “sarcophagus dance”, which included the burial of a mummified chicken as part of a science project. They also learned about different foods and, as part of the festivities, the academy celebrated its first spelling bee with third graders. The children had 10 seconds to write the word in Arabic. In the end, Anabella Jodarski got all the words correct.
“I feel like it’s fun and it comes naturally to me,” Jodarski said.
This may be because Jodarski learned when he was a baby, which is a practice Star Child Academy uses to ensure their students are fluent.
“By teaching them at a young age, these languages help their cognitive ability and also connect brain pathways that may never have been connected when hearing these sounds and speaking these words,” Zimmerman said.
Amal Luqman, an Arabic teacher at the academy, said it takes time to master the language, but it serves students well once they do.
“It’s a beautiful, very complex language. You start reading from right to left. Once the students master all 28 letters, it becomes really easy. It makes me so happy and proud that so many of them show such interest in the Arabic language,” Luqman said. “It just allows them to get smarter. It just allows them to open up to so many things as they grow in life.”
Star Child Academy has seven locations in the Orlando area, all of which offer a foreign language, including American Sign Language.
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