Monday, November 26, 2007

Language van brings classroom to the community


Every day during the week, a high-tech van decked out with eight computer stations makes stops at four Santa Barbara locations and helps Spanish-speaking 4-year-olds prepare for kindergarten.
The newly launched Mobile Waterford Project, organized and funded by a group of local philanthropists about a year ago, took to the streets for the first time earlier this month and will be in operation throughout the school year.

“It is a great opportunity for children to learn,” teacher Soei Duran said. “It’s a really nice interactive program that really focuses on development and early reading and prepares them for kindergarten very well.”
As the preschool-aged children enter the van, they take a seat at one of the computer stations, start up the interactive language and reading program, and don’t turn away once during the half-hour session.
“They’re very, very excited, very engaged,” Duran said. “The parents are very involved also, very active. Parents really enjoy the program, because they grab a set of headphones and sit down with their kids and learn too.”
The free program introduces students to basic computer skills and focuses on teaching them how to recognize letters and sounds while expanding vocabulary and reading comprehension.
California Concern, the group of philanthropists, along with support from the James S. Bower Foundation, All Saints Episcopal Church and the Edward Baker Foundation, put the money together for a mobile learning program last year. After Mission Linen Supply donated the van, they cleared out the interior, installed computer stations and painted animals along each side.
On November 6, the van started its daily rounds, stopping at 130 E. Cota St., 629 Coronel Place, the intersection of Carpinteria and Voluntario streets, and 2121 De la Vina St.
Duran, who became involved with the program in August, said the goal is to target at-risk and low-income Spanish speakers. Organizers already have 65 kids enrolled in the program and hope to reach their goal of 100 students soon.
“We’re still looking for more 4-year-olds,” she said. “To reach that particular community, that low-income community, has been the hardest thing to do. The parents often don’t speak English and they don’t know about these opportunities.”
Next year, organizers hope to purchase another van to serve the Goleta community, and Duran said they hope to include Carpinteria in the future as well.
For more information on the Mobile Waterford Project, contact Duran at 896-2639 or, or visit the Child Development Program office at 720 E. Cota St.

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