At the end of January, we visited an open-house at Yinghua Academy, a Chinese-immersion charter school in the Minneapolis district, in the Nordeast neighborhood. In fact, this was the first Chinese immersion charter school in the USA just ten years ago. Today it has grown to about 360 students in Kindergarten through 8th grade (so about two classrooms for each grade). We had heard great things about the school, so we wanted to see if it was the kind of place Wynn would do well in.
For the younger grades, the school teaches everything except gym, music, and art entirely in Mandarin Chinese, right from Day One. Most of the kids who go there are not Asian, but they figure things out really quickly.
A very text-rich environment - some pre-printed materials there, but most of what we saw on the walls had been adapted from English-language material.
Students' work was displayed EVERYWHERE on both floors. So much creativity!A half-hour demonstration was performed in each Kindergarten class to show the kids and parents what a typical instructional activity looked like. The teacher and her assistants led the kids through a "morning greeting" activity, and then a short lesson which incorporated learning the names of various animals and the words for run, jump, and walk. Wynn held back for a couple moments to observe what was going on, and then she jumped right into the activity, raising her hand and volunteering. She had a great time. And her speech clarity in Mandarin was really quite good after she had some practice - as good if not better than her English clarity.
Enrollment at the school is done by lottery, as there just aren't enough classrooms to accommodate all the demand. We had already filled out the paperwork, and put it into the basket after the demonstration - yes, we knew this would be an ideal place to challenge her (even if we didn't know how the transportation was going to work.)
On Friday, Feb 11 the lottery was conducted and results posted on the school's website. Unfortunately, Wynn did not get the lucky number - they received a record number of applications this year. If the school were twice as large, she would have gotten in.
She's disappointed. We're disappointed. It would have been a great match. So Plan A for Kindergarten isn't going to work. It seems Plan B (continue at her excellent preschool, which offers a K program "on paper") isn't going to work either, as there hasn't been enough family interest there to get a class going for the 2011-2012 school year. So we're going to have to develop Plans C and D in the next few weeks...