In light of the Learning Results in Modern and Classical Languages which mandate second language acquisition from grades K-12 in the State of Maine, UMF embarked on a service learning partnership with Mallett School, to teach French in the elementary grades, and help Mallett school develop and sustain a foreign language curriculum. Several options were considered at the start of the program. French was selected because of local expertise and geographical setting, and also in light of costs involved and ease of running a second language program. Every classroom in each grade is involved, but the program was implemented in stages: first grade only in Spring 1998, first and second grade in 1998-99, and grades one through three in 1999-2000. This gradual approach made it possible to develop one year of curriculum at a time and to grow gradually. It is hoped that the school that will receive these children in grades 4-6 will continue teaching French in grades 4-6. UMF students teach French for 10 weeks each semester, once a week for about 30 to 40 minutes, which is not sufficient but can be reinforced the rest of the week by the classroom teacher.

Everyone benefits: UMF students are immersed in a real classroom and learn teaching through practice. Mallett school benefits from a pool of eager volunteers to start a French program on a shoe string. The children benefit the most, since research has proven that early second language acquisition enhances brain functions for life. This program depends on the efforts of many. UMF developed a new French course and practicum to train students linguistically and pedagogically for this project (French for the Elementary Grades). Students are requested to register for these classes and reflect upon their practical experiences as part of the project. 23 UMF students (several working as teams) participated in the program this year, which is remarkable considering that UMF is a small liberal arts college with no French major. The local PTA and Community raised over $10,000 a dazzling sum for rural Maine to make the program a reality. Mallett School Principals implemented the project and continue to support it wholeheartedly. First and second grade teachers at Mallett are mentoring UMF students and reinforcing lessons during the week. They are learning French with the students and their enthusiasm plays a crucial role. The Mallett School French Program Coordinator receives a small stipend to develop the curriculum with Professor Sylvie Charron of UMF, who coordinates the program and teaches one class in every grade. She is an indispensable chain in this tightly woven fabric. In terms of funding, this program has benefited from two $500 Service Learning Grants to purchase books and other materials, and from a $250 donation from The Department of Humanities to purchase a series of books. All in all, this program has been immensely successful and continues to grow. It could definitely serve as a service-learning model for other universities and communities. Contact person: Sylvie Charron, Assoc. Professor of French, scharron@maine.edu