- The Washington Times - Monday, August 11, 2008

FREDERICK, Md. | A group of Frederick County students is participating in a summer program of reading, writing and speaking in Chinese, just in time for the Olympics in Beijing.

Besides grammar and recitation, the 31 students are trying calligraphy, creating posters for the Olympics and seeing demonstrations of the Chinese tea ceremony and martial arts.

Elizabeth Chung, executive director of LIFE and Discovery, a nonprofit educational corporation, said emphasizing connections between cultures brings lessons to life and serves as a foundation for more learning.

Susan Murphy, curriculum specialist with Frederick County public schools, wrote the $52,000 STARTALK grant proposal.

The proposal was funded by the Defense Department. Miss Murphy said the department and other federal agencies want to support education programs in languages such as Arabic, Russian and Chinese.

“I’m learning new activities like Chinese chess and checkers, origami,” said Samantha Rich, 13.

The first summer classes in Frederick County were conducted in 2005 through the Maryland Summer Center, with a grant from the Maryland Department of Education.

Summer Center is a state program for gifted and talented students.

This year’s program was open to students of all levels. It was extended to three weeks and expanded to include space for five native Chinese speakers who may become language teachers.

The teaching participants were paid $25 an hour. They worked with Frederick County world language resource teachers, who helped them organize class plans and offered feedback.

Miss Murphy hopes the summer language program will expand next year to include a nearby college so future teachers can earn course credits.

“I’m hoping to show people in Frederick County that Chinese is a viable language,” she said.

Brandon Chuhran, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at New Market Middle School, was an exchange student and an English instructor in Beijing.

He said students see the possibilities learning another language can provide. “It’s a crucial component of our ability to stay competitive in the world,” he said.

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