A 100-hour, intensive summer Arabic program at Lincoln High School will expand for its third year by accepting students from other high schools for the first time.
The StarTalk program is a no-cost, total immersion Arabic language and culture program held in June. Mary Stimmel, chairwoman of the world languages department at Lincoln, wrote the original grant application.
She said the program at Lincoln has received high marks from StarTalk, a program of the National Security Language Initiative formed by President George W. Bush in 2006. StarTalk was created to expand the teaching of strategically important world languages not widely taught in this country, including Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Hindi, Farsi, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu.
Only 100 slots are available and participants must be entering grades 9-12. Students are expected to attend the entire session, Stimmel said. The course will have guest lecturers and field trips around Des Moines. Students have visited the Blank Park Zoo, for instance, to learn about animals of the Middle East. They sample foods of the Middle East and learn about the mode of dress, music and leisure activities there.
A goal of the program is for students to acquire proficiency in reading and communication in Arabic, and to learn much more about the art and culture of the Arab world.
Stimmel said students can earn one semester of credit for completing the program.
The curriculum is organized in three levels: new students, those who have had some prior experience with Arabic language and culture, and advanced students.
Curriculum themes for this year are "A Student in Cairo," "A Family Celebration" and "Operating an International Market."
"You learn a ton of culture," Stimmel said, adding that the curriculum teaches students about cultural expectations, manners and behaviors.
"This is such an opportunity for Des Moines and for the whole community," she said. "Most of these kids at Lincoln would not step out of their comfort zone and try Arabic during the regular school year. But in the summer, they'll grab a friend or two and they'll step out of their comfort zone."