Love for Grand Rapids Community, Language, and Art Motivates Local Moms to Open Unique School
One may assume that if a child grows up hearing a language along with English, they would be like sponges and soak up both languages. However, it can be difficult to get a child to learn a second language, even if the family is bilingual.
I grew up in an Italian family as a first generation American where we heard about as much Italian as English. Do you know how much Italian I can remember now? Maybe just a smidge more than the average American. This is because there wasn’t the intention for us kids growing up in America to learn the language of our family.
Do you wish for your child learn a language?
The Academy of Art and Design in Cascade is offering this, plus many more learning opportunities for your family. Through activities, games, and Mandarin Chinese-only dialogue, children as young as four years old can learn from native speakers using the immersion technique.
“We put our heart in each individual kid. So either way, Chinese or American, families feel comfortable sending their kids to our school,” says Cecily Shi, Academy co-founder.
Mandarin Chinese is Spoken Worldwide, But it Can Be Hard to Find a Place to Learn it in Grand Rapids
It’s easy enough to find a foreign language class for your child in school or homeschool co-op, but if you are interested in Mandarin Chinese, which is the most commonly-spoken language in the world, the opportunities are much more sparse in the Grand Rapids area.
Cecily says the Academy has and welcomes American students who are interested in learning the Mandarin Chinese language.
Moms with a Passion Combine Their Talents to Teach Children and Build Community
The Academy was founded in June 2019 by Cecily and two other local moms, Beibei Chen and Leilei Chen.
Beibei and Leilei are professional artists and college art professors. These ladies have a passion for sharing their skills and knowledge with the community.
The inspiration to open the school began with the desire for their children to have a place where they would be comfortable learning the Mandarin Chinese language and understanding the relevance of knowing about their culture. They also want to offer the opportunity for children of all nationalities to learn.
Comfort Level and Motivation Play a Large Part in Learning a New Language
Cecily says it is often difficult for Chinese children to feel comfortable or understand the importance of learning their family’s original language.
“We see a lot of Chinese kids growing up in the United States who don’t see the necessity of learning or using the language because this environment is not really promoting them to use it. So they tend to lose interest in learning the language,” Cecily says.
“I understand it is one of the most difficult languages to learn. The problem is, if we don’t create an environment for them to feel comfortable speaking Chinese, they will lose the language completely.”
They have small class sizes of no more than 10 students, which allows the teacher to tailor the lessons to the abilities of each student.
Students Can Learn a Variety of Art Classes Taught in Both Chinese and English
Immersion into Chinese language isn’t the only skill taught at the Academy. Many forms of art are taught by both Chinese and English-speaking teachers.
Children can learn pencil drawing, pastels, acrylic and water-color painting, ceramics, paper making, “encaustic” painting (using colored, heated beeswax), and digital art.
As with the Chinese classes, each child’s abilities are considered by the teacher with the goal of teaching the child to love the creation of art.
Interested in an Art Party? This is the Place for a Creative Good Time
The Academy also is available for the public to be rented for art parties. You can pick your own theme and type of art you’d like to do for your event, and a “one of a kind experience” will be created for you. Details can be found here.
Families Can Contribute Their Skills in Exchange for Classes
Another unique and exciting thing about the Academy is what they call a Community Benefit Program. A parent can come up with an idea for a class to teach, present their idea to the Academy, and if it is something that fits with the vision of the Academy, the parent can teach this class in exchange for other classes for their children.
Cecily says the Academy welcomes anyone to contribute and benefit from this program.
“As a mom myself, it’s always constantly paying for your kids,” says Cecily. “So if I use some of my time teaching someone else, then they can benefit, and my kids can benefit.”
Some of the classes already being taught with the Community Benefit Program are chess – both Chinese and international chess, and a study of the book, “The 7 Habits of Happy Kids” to promote positive thinking and behavior.
Cecily hopes that many more families will take advantage of this program.
“Together we are hoping to create and continue to improve our community with a shared talent pool.”