Critics and cynics refer to the Midwest as flyover country, but those of us who live and work here know that, in many ways, Des Moines is a global crossroads. Not only do we educate students from a hundred different nations around the world, we also educate students who go on to do great things around the world.

This global interaction makes world languages at Des Moines Public Schools an important part of our educational offerings, which are about to expand thanks to a federal grant.

DMPS is being awarded a grant of more than $112,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense STARTALK program in support our Arabic language program. Arabic is an important language for a growing population within the Des Moines community as well as the growing importance of Arab-speaking nations in the world economy.

“Our local Arabic-speaking community is growing, and this particular grant allows DMPS to expand our reach and highlight our inclusion and value of our multilingual families,” said Samantha Finneseth, World Language Curriculum & Seal of Biliteracy Coordinator at DMPS. “In order to support our School Board goals, heritage world language courses are a great way to support literacy development and critical thinking skills in our students who come from multilingual homes.”

One new initiative the grant will support is a two-week, full-day Arabic camp at no cost for students in 6-11 grade. Students from families with military service and students from homes speaking Arabic will have priority enrollment. Transportation, meals, and field trips will all be part of this free camp. The grant will also help raise awareness of the school district’s Arabic program to increase overall enrollment in courses, including the number of students studying Arabic at Intermediate to Advanced levels.

“By offering community cultural interactions, supporting essential language skills, and offering meals, our community has the opportunity to learn and grow together,” added Finneseth. “Without this STARTALK grant none of this additional programming and community investment would be possible.”

In addition to Arabic, World Language currently being taught at DMPS are Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish. For more information visit the DMPS World Languages web site.

Photos from a Recent Arabic Class at Central Academy
Arabic at Central Academy

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