The school year 2017-2018 Odyssey Charter School (OCS) launched an innovative dual language immersion program (DLI) in English and Greek. The implementation began in the kindergarten and has expanded to grade 1 in the school year 2018-2019. This is a program that builds on OCS’ previous experience with the teaching of Greek as part of the FLES (Foreign Languages in Elementary School) program. Immersion programs aim at the development of bilingualism within the school setting by immersing students from a very young age in a bilingual learning context.

Gains of the DLI
It has been claimed that immersion programs are the most effective way of learning a foreign language within a school setting. Immersion education learners have been found to be able to add a second language to their repertory of skills at no cost to the development of their first language (Cummins, 2000). As a result, these learners manage to attain a relatively high level of both fluency and literacy in their two languages as well improve their working memory and other cognitive skills. On top of the above gains brought about by bilingual education, immersion programs help learners to develop positive cross-cultural attitudes in an increasingly multilingual world. They expose students to customs, ideas and perspectives of a different culture and create a deeper understanding of and appreciation for humanity and culture, which enriches one’s life and personal experiences in the world (Albers 2010).

The DLI at OCS
Taking into consideration the positive research results of previous immersion programs, the Odyssey Charter School is implementing the partial immersion type of education where 50% of instruction will be provided in Greek. The core academic content is split by subject area between two teachers: The Greek teacher teaches math, science and Greek language arts, whereas the English teacher teaches social studies and English language arts. This means that OCS learners will have the opportunity to acquire Greek through the study of academic disciplines but this content-centered language learning is an effective way for them to develop both their interactive and their academic skills in Greek as a foreign language (Cummins 1979).

The DLI curriculum
The World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (2016), created by the national organization ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages), and the Common Core State Standards were the cornerstones of the first integrated American and Greek language curriculum that we designed and is currently being implemented for the first time at the Odyssey Charter School. This means that the immersion students at the OCS will follow the same standards-based curriculum in math, science and language arts that non-immersion students follow: they will be taught the core concepts that are part of the curriculum of those subjects in Greek and at the same time they will be taught Greek through content.

Based on the curriculum designed and its implementation the following years, OCS students are expected to acquire an Intermediate level of proficiency at the end of grade 5 and an advanced level of proficiency at the end of grade 9. This means that in 9 years from now those learners will be able to speak Greek fluently and accurately; they will be able to read and appreciate texts written in Greek and they will develop a deep understanding of the Greek culture and way of thinking.

The Greek Program Beyond the School Setting