PIQUA — Fourth, fifth, and sixth graders at Piqua Central Intermediate School (PCIS) are learning to communicate without saying a word, thanks to the school’s ongoing American Sign Language (ASL) Club.
The program, which runs November through April, is free to interested students. The club began during the 2017-18 school year, due to a joint effort between Sarah Bensman, who teaches ASL at Piqua High School, and PCIS social studies teacher Nate Olmer.
“Nate asked me if perhaps we’d want to start an ASL Club for some of the intermediate kids to get them interested in what was going on, and become exposed to the language,” Bensman said. “That way, even before junior high or high school, they’d have an understanding of which direction they’ll want to go, and what language they’ll eventually want to take.”
Bensman meets with participating students for one hour after school on the first and third Tuesdays of each month in the commons. Together, the group learns sets of related words and play follow-up games to reinforce the vocabulary.
“I do categories like family, food, animals, colors, and other things I can get enough vocabulary into one section that’s relevant to what they’re doing,” Bensman said.
“I’m interested in ASL Club because I like to learn new things and I like to learn sign language,” said fourth grader Riley Grove. “At first, I kind of knew the alphabet, but I wanted to learn more.”
“I like being able to be around a lot of other people, and being able to learn new words,” said sixth grader Brenna Thompson. “I like the teacher a lot.”
“My favorite thing about the program is she really makes sure you understand, and you get to learn how some people live every single day,” said sixth grader Julia Thompson.
Bensman insists her goal is to continue spreading the exposure of the program to younger students, so that it will grow at the high school in years to come.
“Giving this program as much exposure as possible to the kids over here is important to me. There’s a lot of people even in the school system that have no idea what I do,” Bensman said.
“We teach ASL at the high school as a world language program, just like Spanish or French. When these kids get to the high school level, they may have interest now in taking it again, or may even know that it’s not for them. I just want them to know it’s an option.”
Regular club sessions will run through Tuesday, April 16, at PCIS. New participants are welcome at any time.