The Importance of Immersion

Bdote Learning Center getting experiential education snowshoeing with the DNR at Bdote.

Why Immersion?

We’ve had parents and community members ask us why they should send their children to an immersion program.  We have heard family concerns that their students are not currently making the progress in English reading as other students at English only schools.  Yes, this is probably true for most of our younger students. Research shows us that these lags in English writing and reading are only temporary.  Our students will not only catch up with their peers at other schools, but outperform them.  We are just starting to see the immersion pay off with the students who have completed their 4th year of immersion. In over 500 studies comparing English only schools to language immersion schools, after the lag period (grades 3-5) the students in immersion outperformed their English only peers in every single study.

Bdote Learning Center showing off students love of reading in Dakota.

The Long Term Benefits of Immersion

  • Speak, read, and write the second language (Dakota or Ojibwe) at levels that are near or at native “first speaker” proficiency.  
  • Enhanced depth of understanding of other people, cultures, and communities  
  • Enhanced cognitive development and capabilities.  
  • Greater facility with English and linguistics in general (they can learn other languages easily)  
  • Improved academic performance throughout the school years  
  • A sense of accomplishment and a higher level of motivation for learning.  
  • Better ACT and SAT (college entrance exam) scores.  
  • A wider range of career and social opportunities.

Bdote Learning Center having cultural education through Pow Wow activities with guest dancer.

Addressing Concerns

1. Slow initial performance. Your child may initially learn to read and write English at a slower pace than students in single language schools. Once this temporary stage has passed, most immersion students perform at or above grade level in both languages. 

 2. Homework help. Parents who do not speak the second language may feel frustrated at times because they don’t know exactly what their child is doing. If you are concerned about your child’s progress, do not hesitate to call and ask to have a conference with his or her teacher, they are happy to help. 

 3. Well-meaning friends and family....may be critical and unsupportive at first. You may be told that what you are doing is not in the best interest of your child. When people see that your child doesn’t forget his native language (Ojibwe or Dakota), does learn to read in English and does keep up with the neighborhood children, they will be assured that you made the right decision.

The Research

The Research

The Research

Bdote Learning Center getting experiential education at the Minnesota Zoo.

The earlier you can get children into immersion the better.  Our young children’s brains are growing and forming neural connections.  Children in immersion are being challenged constantly and are forming more brain pathways than children in English only classrooms.  Once these pathways have formed they are there for life.  These pathways help children connect information, use more information in making decisions, and set up a scaffolding to store and retrieve information better. (Lach, 1997; McKesson, 2013).

The Research

The Research

"The effect of learning a second language on first-language skills has been positive in all studies done.... [and] the loss of instructional time in English has never been shown to have negative effects on the achievement of the first language.” (Bournot-Trites & Tellowitz, 2002) In fact, immersion students match and surpass English program students’ performance by Grade 4 or 5 after first-language arts are introduced in the middle elementary years. (Turnbull, Hart & Lapkin, 2000).

     Reviews of research studies found that immersion students met or exceeded English program students’ performance in mathematics and science, and national assessments found that at grades 6, 8, and 10, respectively, immersion students achieved at a significantly higher level than those in the regular program. (Bournot-Trites & Tellowitz, 2002; British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2000; Dube & MacFarlane, 1999; Department of Education, 2000; Turnbull, Hart & Lapkin, 2000.)  

     Immersion has cognitive benefits including mental flexibility, increased sensitivity to others, and increased ability to learn other languages.  Immersion students are better able to solve complex problems and score significantly better in analysis, creativity,