Sharing Best Practices in Immersion Education

Last month, PKS was invited to Washington, DC as part of a symposium on immersion education. Seven of our faculty and staff members – Allie, Ashley, Jess, Linling, Mike, Paloma, and Yan – visited four schools at various stages of development, from one with a 130-year history to another that has yet to open its doors.


In the process, our team deepened their knowledge of best practices in immersion education while sharing some of their own unique insights from PKS. We were honored to be welcomed as peers at the table — a reminder of just how far we have come since our founding 10 years ago — and excited to share our own expertise on how to integrate Mandarin immersion within a progressive framework. Here are some highlights from the trip.

At Yu Ying, the team spoke with school leaders about the growing, coast-to-coast popularity of Chinese immersion. Yu Ying is the top-ranked and most sought-after public charter school in DC. It serves learners of all types and is an inspiring reminder of how the goals of bilingualism and biculturalism dovetail with goals of diversity and inclusion. Yu Ying's wellness team had many questions for Jess about the ways PKS works to support a variety of learning styles, particularly in how we coach students towards self-advocacy and self-awareness.

At the Washington International School, a preK-12 school, our team observed classes in their immersion preschool, which has French and Spanish tracks, and observed preparations for student-led conferences in the elementary school. We were impressed with the extent to which WIS students lead their conferences. The students truly take the lead while the teachers fly co-pilot. In addition, we had in-depth conversations about scheduling and curriculum — WIS is beginning an effort to move towards more interdisciplinary teaching and will visit PKS in the future to learn from our model.

At Sidwell Friends, our meetings focused on sharing wisdom on the ways to foster global citizenship. Sidwell has a well-established Chinese Studies program dating back to 1983. The program’s chair, Dr. John Flower, is collaborating with PKS to develop our 6th grade trip to Yunnan. John has long led Sidwell juniors and seniors on an immersive, project-based semester abroad in Yunnan. Our 6th graders will embark on a "junior" version of the trip this fall.

Finally, we visited the nascent Whittle School, scheduled to admit their first class in the fall of 2019. Their ambitious educational design team is researching ways in which Chinese immersion and "project-based-learning" can be successfully combined. "We're in learning mode now," said a member of their team, "and [PKS is] the only model out there combining data-based immersion practices with rigorous PBL."

It was a whirlwind visit to the snowy east coast, but a wonderful way for PKS to both learn from and share with other excellent schools.