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ERIC Number: EJ871249
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1083-5415
Welcome Aboard Starship MIR: Mission Is Russian
Gullickson, Janice
Learning Languages, v15 n1 p42-44 Fall 2009
Six years ago Project Starship MIR, the Russian language "shuttle," launched at Turnagain Elementary, one of the Anchorage School District's 65 elementary schools. The MIR "peace" mission originated with encouragement from the local business community to prepare students for Alaska's future economic, social and political ties with neighboring Russia, less than twelve miles away. Young Alaskans learning Russian also renew interest in this less commonly taught language as they discover there are many shared heritages and customs of the Alaskan and Russian peoples following years of isolation during the Cold War. The MIR lift-off (2003) was fueled by a FLAP (Foreign Language Assistance Program) grant from the U.S. Department of Education and a local funding match. At the time, Turnagain's was one of the only known Russian elementary immersion programs at a public school in the United States. In this immersion model native Russian speakers teach half of each day's content in Russian and English partner teachers teach the other half in English. The program was launched with kindergarten and first grade and each year expands by adding the next grade level, so that the model is built step by step. Today the Russian partial immersion program spans kindergarten through sixth grade with 271 students, seven native Russian teachers and seven English partner teachers. All teachers are highly qualified and certificated. Sixty-one percent of the school's students are in this program-within-a-school, and the remaining students receive weekly Russian lessons from Elena Farkas, MIR's FLES (Foreign Language in the Elementary School) teacher and project coordinator and a native of Magadan, sister city to Anchorage in the Russian Far East. Thus it is that all 441 students at Turnagain are learning Russian. Russian immersion at Turnagain is a program of choice. Like other optional programs in the district, a lottery determines entry with preference given to neighborhood families and siblings. Weekly classroom tours and monthly orientations offer parents the opportunity to learn more about the program prior to the lottery.
National Network for Early Language Learning. Winston-Salem, NC. e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Education; Elementary Secondary Education; Grade 1; Grade 6; High Schools; Kindergarten; Middle Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Alaska; Russia; United States