You quickly realize this isn’t your everyday preschool the minute you step in the front door.
Pictures and flags from Brazil and Ireland adorn the walls. In one room, you hear classical music. In another, a laptop is tuned to a radio station playing music from Mexico.
And, although the majority of kids on this day are English-speaking natives, teacher Karen Saenz is peppering them with questions in Spanish.
The school is EuropaKids International Preschool, which is based in West Seattle and recently opened its first school in Snohomish County, in Edmonds.
Founder and director Colin Wiggins, who owns and operates the school with his wife, Nicole Chaudry, said choosing Edmonds was an easy call.
“The demographics here are very similar to West Seattle,” Wiggins said. “We call them villages, where everybody knows everybody else. As with our other schools, we want to really get involved in the Edmonds community.”
EuropaKids, fully licensed by the Washington State Department of Early Learning, is a language-immersion preschool with full-day and half-day programs, now enrolling students between the ages of 2½ and 6. Although the three West Seattle schools offer Spanish, German and Mandarin Chinese courses, the Edmonds location focuses on Spanish and Mandarin Chinese exclusively.
Wiggins is sold on the benefits of multilingualism and points to proof offered by numerous studies and from news organizations such as NPR and the website Multilingual Living.
“Language is the key that holds our pre-K curriculum together,” Wiggins said. “We’re preparing kids for elementary school, but it’s also about having fun.”
Wiggins, 40, is a native English speaker who also speaks Spanish, French, German and Japanese. Chaudry, 32, is a native German fluent in English and Polish. Last year, Chaudry was recognized for her commitment and dedication to providing outstanding quality child care at the annual National Child Care Providers Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. In addition, Wiggins said EuropaKids has been recognized by regional, national, and international programs for its work in multilingualism in regards to preschool.
International schools are indeed gaining traction in Puget Sound. Seattle Public Schools has just designated several of its schools as international schools, including Chief Sealth International, Denny International Middle School and Beacon Hill International.
Wiggins said that he understands that some parents may have concerns about children so young, who are already just learning their native language, tackling another one. They may think it’s too much, but Wiggins says it’s the opposite: children are able to absorb more than one language. The earlier the better, he says, pointing to overseas locations where students can be studying two, three or even as many as six languages at a time.
The proof, Wiggins said, come from parents whose children have graduated or are in the program. “There’s an ‘a-ha’ moment,” he said, “when parents who are native English speakers start to learn about other languages and cultures after their children are exposed to it.”
Europa Kids International Preschool is at 22009 76th Ave. W., Edmonds. For more information, call 206-708-5784 or go to the school’s website.