The approach, known as content and language integrated learning (CLIL), is a form of learning where the children participate in a familiar activity but only receive instructions in the new language.
Hobart West early childhood teacher Kylie Botterill said the use of cooking classes helped eliminate distractions and introduce the new language in a fun way.
“By running the sessions during a cooking class, it’s something the children are already really familiar with and already enjoy.
“This enables them to focus on learning all the new words and expressions without being distracted by having to learn the activity as well. They’re able to follow instructions in the session, even though all they are hearing is Chinese.”
While it may seem counterintuitive to teach children a second language at a time when they’re still mastering English, research shows there are many benefits in doing so for children as young as three years old.
“Learning another language benefits many areas of development, and it also benefits children in developing their own language as well,” Ms Botterill said.
“There are studies which suggest that children who learn a second language may be more creative, better problem solvers, perform better academically and have a higher self-esteem.
“It also opens their mind to new ideas and new cultures, which can have many benefits for them in later life.”
While it’s early days in the program at Hobart West, some benefits of the program have already been seen.
“There were two outcomes we are working towards with the program. Firstly, we have a number of children from Chinese backgrounds at the centre and we wanted to help them transition into the group and feel some belonging.
“In this regard, it’s already been an outstanding success and the children are much more outgoing and expressive than they were previously.
“Secondly, we wanted the children to have a chance to learn another language through immersion in something they enjoy doing.
“While it’s too early to see much progress in terms of learning the language, the children are loving the sessions which is the best outcome we could have hoped for so far.”
Centre director Deb Manion has also seen other benefits of the program in the centre.
“Our educator who facilitates the sessions has been able to build really meaningful relationships with rooms she doesn’t normally teach in, and the centre has been able to embrace her culture.
“Our families have been really happy about it too. We’ve shared the benefits of the program with them on StoryPark, so they realty understand what we’re trying to achieve and are right behind us.”