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CASPER, Wyo. — Today is the last day for Natrona County families to register students for a summer Chinese language camp.

Students entering first through fifth grades will learn Mandarin Chinese language, history and culture through one of two weeklong camps held at Park Elementary School in July.

The camp is funded with a grant from the federal Department of Defense. The STARTALK program encourages teaching languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Persian and Russian as part of the National Security Language Initiative created under former President George W. Bush.

The summer camp will inform future decisions about immersion programs in Natrona County, said Vicki Foster, director of teaching and learning for the district.

District officials visited immersion schools, where students learn core subjects in another language, in Utah last year. Foster said immersion students’ brains become wired differently.

“It will help them in all of their academic achievement,” Foster said. “It’s not just reading, it’s not just math, it’s problem solving, reasoning, thinking because of the way the brain matures in those students.”

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Foster said the district is exploring additional grants that support language instruction in middle and high schools.

“We’re exploring all kinds of ways to make our students more globally competitive,” Foster said. “The competitiveness isn’t just globally, it’s locally.”

Parents can register their children by visiting the district website, natronaschools.org, or calling (307) 253-5328.

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