There were 30 Rotary members present. The one guest was Rhonda Miller’s Aunt Helen Assimos, who has lived in Wilmette for 55 years. The W-N Chamber of Commerce representative was Ann Smith.
Lee Padgitt lead the Pledge of Allegiance. Chuck Norton gave the Thought of the Day. Tom Nash gave the Dig N’ Grin, which consisted of several famous pranks that have been “pulled” on April Fool’s Day, including an announcement that Taco Bell had purchased the naming rights to the Liberty Bell!
ANNOUNCEMENTS: Tom and Joe Nash celebrated their birthdays. Ann Smith mentioned the honor President Thomas had recently received as the Chamber’s Man of the Year and she expressed appreciation for all the Rotarians who attended  John’s Recognition Lunch at the WCH and actually behaved themselves! Liz Taylor and Gina Sich were again congratulated for being named 2016 Connecting Communities Award Recipients by the Women’s Exchange, to be honored at the Women’s Exchange Spring Luncheon Benefit April 16th. Patti Van Cleve mentioned the Club’s Spring Benefit on May 13th at the Michigan Shores Club in Wilmette, featuring silent/live auctions, dinner/cash bar, performance by the AOK Cabaret group and tickets are $90 single, $175 couple. Patti also mentioned that next week’s Rotary  program will have the representatives from the Club’s 10 Community Grants Recipients for 2016 and that our Rotary Foundation (for a few more days) will still make a 50% (up to $250) match of members’ gifts to any of these organizations. Tim McCabe reminded everyone of the WCH annual benefit to be held on April 9 featuring the Second City Improv All-Stars with admission being $75 per person.
SPEAKER MARIA KURT:  Maria owns and runs the French Institute of the North Shore (for adults up to age 80) and in 2003 started the French School of Winnetka for pre-school children ages 3-6. Both of these are located at 562 Green Bay Road in downtown Winnetka. The purpose of both schools is to help those who want to learn French and learn about the French culture, as well as other cultures around the world. She pointed out that foreign languages are “acquired” by children up to age six, but those individuals older than age six “learn” the language—thus, there is a distinct advantage in learning foreign languages at an early age when all languages are equally easy to learn.
     Her school for children has three levels: Petite Section - age 3, Moyenne Section – age 4 and Grande Section – age 5, with up to 16 children in each class. The children attend the school five days a week, half a day for the younger children and half or full day for the older ones. The native French teachers only speak in French and as the children progress, they too eventually speak in French all day. Maria used a power point to show how the teachers introduce the children to the cultures of other countries by taking them on  4-6 week imaginary trips around the world.  This year the children are visiting France, Morocco, Sweden, Italy, China and Brazil.  The children engage in such activities as obtaining Passports, making transportation plans, pretending to ride on airplanes and ships, making various country flags, cooking, playing games/musical instruments, selling products, making art projects, and celebrating the holidays of  the countries  they “visit”.
      Maria mentioned that about 50% of her children are from Winnetka and the rest from other North Shore communities; that 20% of the children have one French parent, 20% have one parent who has studied French, 20% have International parents (non-French), and 40% have American parents with little or no French background. A child usually starts at age three and progresses through all three levels. She said that her “graduates” integrate into regular kindergarten and 1st grade without a problem, although some children are surprised to find out that all their classes are conducted in English.  Maria and her institutions do a great job in making the North Shore a little more international, especially when you see the students  in their red, white and blue school uniforms walking through downtown Winnetka singing French songs.
To illustrate Maria’s efficiency in teaching French, Robert Mardirossian had his ticket drawn in the Rotary Raffle and he was able to say the number “941” in French, with a little coaching!