I saw in your post that your dd will be going to preschool next year, and I have an idea that you may or may not like.
So first, here is what gave me the idea:
My dd (9 y.o.) has been going to a humungous day care center since she was 6 months old. (Full time until Kindergarten. Since beginning of kindergarten, after school during the school year, and full-time during the summers.)
Last summer, my daughter told me that once a week, every week, the day care teaches the children Chinese during the summer! I questioned my daughter further for details. It seems that every Tuesday, a lady (perhaps one of the mothers of one of the daycare kids), came to the daycare to teach the children Chinese. (Now, this day care has a ton of kids, and each age group is organized by age. You know, they have an infant room, an early toddler's room, a toddler's room, an early K-3 class, a regular K-3 class, a K-4 class, a transitional K-5 class for kindergarteners, and a school-age class for grades 1 and above (technically up to the age of 12, but realistically probably only up to grade 5.) Anyway, it seems that this Chinese teacher goes from one classroom to another and spends ~30 minutes at each classroom teaching the children Chinese. (I'm sure that she doesn't do the 2 year olds of course, but my daughter said that she did the pre-school age classes and the school-age class, and she did each class separately for obvious reasons.)
Real simple stuff, of course, because there are maybe only 2 children in the entire daycare who can speak any Chinese at all, and kids lose attention pretty fast. Things like how to say "Thank you", "Hello", "Good-bye" for the preschoolers. Learning the basic phonetic sounds (pinyin) spoken in Chinese, and putting the sounds together to learn to pronounce simple Chinese words, for the school-age kids because they have the ability to read and pronounce English letters of the alphabet.
I have no idea if this lady was a volunteer, or if she was paid a token amount by the daycare, but I think that last summer was amazing in ways that weren't initially obvious to me.
1. The children in the daycare were exposed to a tiny sliver of my daughter's culture. I hesitate to sound insensitive, but the fact is that my daughter's daycare reflects the demographics of the small city that I live in. When my dd was in K-4, every single girl in her class (except my dd) had fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes.
2. The children in the daycare were proud that they were "learning" to speak Chinese. It is the first introduction to these "American" children have that the idea of knowing how to speak Chinese is cool, and not something to hide in shame. Eventually, in a few years, these children might go to the schools with my dd, and perhaps this idea will grow. (Planting this tiny seed of good-will is not entirely far-fetched, I believe, based on another experience that I have had. During the year before my dd entered elementary school, the elementary school had a full-time teacher from Taiwan teach all of the elementary school classes Chinese for a year. Nothing fancy, just one hour per week, per classroom. So it's not like they would learn to actually speak Chinese, but they would get a little taste and perhaps someday still be interested enough to eventually take a Chinese course in college. Learn how to say some key conversational phrases, sing a few songs. Just like how my dd's elementary school "teaches" the children Spanish. Certainly not an immersion.The money for the Chinese teacher ran out right when my daughter entered kindergarten, so the Chinese teacher was gone by the time my dd entered that school. However, to this very day, four years later after the teacher left, there are still random children from the fourth and fifth grades of my dd's elementary school who come up to me and reminisce fondly about this experience of learning Chinese.)
3. My daughter is exposed to the idea that the other day care kids think that it is "cool" that my dd knows how to speak Chinese, and experience a little bit of what my dd had to struggle to master as a toddler.
Now finally, here is my idea for you:
Wouldn't it be cool if you could find an Arabic-speaking mother who would be willing to volunteer to come to your dd's pre-school (which I assume will have few Arabic-speaking children) for just twenty minute each week to teach the pre-school kids some super-simple conversational Arabic?
Again, nothing fancy, but really easy baby stuff.
For example, one week, the preschoolers could learn the English meaning of some common very simple Arabic names (i.e. Amir, Hassan, etc.). I know that even now, in the third grade, my dd would enjoy learning that type of thing because about 5% of the kids in her school have Arabic-based first names and most girls like knowing the meaning behind all children's names. If you didn't have the time or inclination to do the teaching yourself (I know that I wouldn't), but were willing to coordinate with the pre-school, then I think it might be easy for you to line up a stay-at-home Arabic speaking mother who would be eager to do this.
Maybe another week, send in several Arabic-speaking mothers, who come from different countries, not just from the Middle East, to the preschool. (I.e. Indonesia, Northern Africa, France, etc.)
Again, not that I know anything, but maybe the local Imam might get excited about this as a way to reach out to the local community to instill a little bit of good will, and might even help out with identifying an available creative volunteer who loves working with young children. (I know that our local mosque works very hard to build an open relationship with the local community.) I would assume that an Imam would immediately recognize the need for such instruction to be secular. After all, these are 3 and 4 year olds, who have the attention span of a gnat, being raised in a different culture.
In fact, I'll bet that if you pitched this just right, the pre-school would be really excited about it. After all, educational institutions are really big about diversity these days, this would be much less liability than a field trip but just as interesting to the children, and it would be FREE and educational. You might even consider telling the pre-school that this is an "economic development issue" for the part of the U.S. where you live. (That's what one of my colleagues once told the school superintendent when throwing in his support for the superintendent's plan to create a public Chinese Immersion pre-school over here.) You just have to figure out how to state it in language that they can understand. I'm sure that you probably already know all of the buzzwords that are used by people who educate children. I suppose you could even look up your state's curriculum guidelines for grades P-12, and point out which state standards would be addressed by this idea. Pre-schools love that kind of thing because it is marketable.
And, you know what? Because you are a professor, I wonder if you could somehow tie this in so that you can have this count at your workplace. (Depends on your academic discipline, but even if this is not very close to your academic discipline, most academic institutions encourage professors to stretch their research interests because it encourages interdisciplinary collaborations and unusual funding opportunities.) Maybe get a publication or a conference presentation out of this? Obviously, not your primary research interest area, but many professors also have a side interest and this one might have the potential to grow enough to someday earn your bread and butter? (Now that is REALLY a long shot, but who knows? Just keep your eyes open in case opportunity knocks. And don't forget to make me a minor co-author. :D)
Edited by emilysmama - 5/22/13 at 12:17pm