In Home Economics 23, a dozen adult students sit in tiny chairs and play with toy blocks: see-through blocks, interlocking colored blocks and blocks fashioned from tree branches.

The exercise helps grown-ups discover what skills children build by playing. It’s a typical child development class at Ventura College, except for one thing.

It’s taught in Spanish.

Ventura College has long offered Spanish language, citizenship and English-as-Second-Language classes. But this child development class is the first academic one to be taught at the Ventura campus in a language other than English.

Already, the class is so popular that a second child development class will be taught in Spanish next semester.

“There’s a tremendous need for child care,” said instructor Robin Douglas, who also directs the college children’s center. “This is a skill that you can take with you wherever you go.”

Douglas got the idea for the class from working at Oxnard College, where she started the first Spanish child development class three years ago. It got to where all 27 seats in the room were filled, with 20 people on a waiting list.

The classes are growing at a time when Proposition 227, which California voters passed in June, seeks to ban bilingual education in K-12 schools. Douglas said she hasn’t run into any criticism of her classes.

“If this is something that people want and they’re willing to pay for it and we can provide it, then I think it’s valid,” she said.

To obtain a child-care license, people need to complete 12 units of relevant classes. “This is providing them a way to at least get started,” Douglas said.

Student Martha Jimenez took two child development classes in Spanish at Oxnard College. She signed up for Douglas’ class because it’s a shorter commute from her Santa Paula home.

Through a temporary employment agency, Jimenez works the night shift at the Solo Cup Company in Santa Paula. She already has a child-care license, but she wants to take more classes before working in the field.

“I would like to be able to offer more, to know more about child development,” she said in Spanish.

Spanish classes aren’t new to Ventura County, however. For the past 20 years, Oxnard College has offered bilingual classes in subjects such as math, business and ceramics. Ventura College has offered bilingual classes, mostly in business, at its Santa Paula center for 17 years.

This semester, Douglas has a dozen students. She probably would have had more, but because of an administrative glitch the college had told prospective students the class was canceled.

Some students don’t speak any English, while others speak quite a bit. Some have very little education, while others have college degrees from Mexico.

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