They're only in elementary school but some local students may soon be able to talk their way around a Spanish-speaking county, thanks to an afterschool program.
East Elementary students practiced rolling their Rs, greeting one another and learning the words for all the colors of the rainbow in EspaÃ±ol during Tuesday's afterschool session.
With funds received through the Substance Abuse Prevention Program, or SAPP, and the annual pancake breakfast fund-raiser through McDonald's, students at East Elementary and other district elementary schools entered their second week of afterschool classes this week.
"For a lot of students this is a new thing, something they haven't done before," said East Elementary Counselor Wendy Nadolny who directs the East Elementary program. "Possibly this is keeping students from sitting down in front of the TV as much."
Classes are designed according the number of teachers, parents or community members choose to offer assistance. Afterschool leaders are paid a small stipend for their efforts.
Classes run for 50 minutes at the end of the school day and the program runs for a total of five weeks.
Some other offerings besides learning Spanish include team building, computer skills and nutrition at East Elementary. Other district elementary schools have developed similar programs.
Parent Donna Secules volunteered to help out the young Spanish speakers Tuesday afternoon because she wanted to make sense of the worksheets her children were brining home. Her twins Ryan and Laura came home from school asking questions about Spanish, a language Donna knows nothing about.
"They came home and away they went," Donna said. "Maybe kids aren't as afraid of it as adults are and that's why they catch on so fast."
But just having an afterschool program in place is reassuring to some parents and teachers.
Studies show that children enrolled in afterschool programs develop better social skills than those without, Nadolny said.
She recently received information that children under 2 shouldn't be exposed to any television viewing and children older than that should be limited to no more than two hours of television or video games.
Those findings relate the importance of the social interaction that young students need to develop, she said.
"It makes sense," Nadolny said. "How can they learn social skills if they're not given lots of time to interact?"
The winter afterschool lineup is already set, but teachers can contact the district's elementary schools to propose a class for the spring session.
Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.