NORMAN — “Bonjour, je m’appelle Emmalynn,” a small voice echoed through the halls of Reagan Elementary school early Thursday morning.
Emmalynn Grippen, a kindergartner at Reagan, slowly and shyly stepped outside her classroom door to introduce herself and announce that she wanted to be a veterinarian. A resounding “Awww” was the reply Emma received from three Franco-American Fellows visiting Oklahoma.
Quentin Cunha, Eléanore Dumont and Mathieu Chevré are high school students from France who were selected to visit Oklahoma and conduct research on selected topics through Oct. 26. Cunha is researching architecture and how that relates to tornadoes, Dumont is researching economics and Chevré is researching transportation.
In March 2007, the Oklahoma State Department of Education signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Académie d’Amiens, the education system for the region of Picardie in northern France.
The partnership created opportunities for schools and teachers across the state, including the Franco-American Fellows Program. The program offers French and Oklahoma high school and community college students the opportunity to travel on short-term fellowships.
While in Oklahoma, Cunha, Dumont and Chevré took time out of their busy schedule to learn about Norman Public Schools’ French Immersion Program. The French Immersion Program began August 2012 with 26 students in each kindergarten and first grade.
After observing Reagan kindergartners learning math by drawing “beacoup des cinq,” or “a lot of fives,” Chevré said he was impressed and thought it was a great way for kids to learn his language.
Nancy Gorton, director of NPS world languages, English language learners, French immersion and family/consumer sciences, said the French Immersion Program is effective because the French language is the vehicle for learning.
“Research shows that being bilingual increases mental capacity,” Gorton said. “When you learn a language under the age of 10, it’s stored in the same part of your brain as your native language. After 10, it isn’t.”