South Lake Establishes Partnership with School in China
Two Chinese teachers currently visiting the district, and South Lake’s Mandarin teachers will go to China this spring
Students studying Mandarin in South Lake Schools will have an opportunity of a lifetime through a newly forged partnership with a sister school in Xi’An, China.
Under the partnership with Gaoxin Greenwich School, both South Lake and Chinese students and teachers will have exchange visits on an annual basis.
Goaxin Greenwich School is a boarding school that educates students in grades 7-9, which is the Chinese equivalent of middle school.
The cultural exchange activities began Oct. 27, when two Chinese teachers from Greenwich School arrived in Michigan to visit South Lake. The teachers observed classrooms, learned more about the American education system and the culture in general, and brushed up on their English skills. The teachers are returning to China today.
The next step in the process will take place in the spring, when South Lake’s two Mandarin teachers will visit China to learn about Greenwich School, meet its faculty, and collaboratively decide what experiences students from both sides should have during their exchange visits.
In October of 2012, the first group of Chinese students will visit South Lake for approximately two weeks, and then a group of South Lake students will visit China in the spring of 2013. In each country, visiting students will stay in the homes of fellow students from their sister school.
South Lake students who go to China will be able to obtain half a credit in foreign language because they participated in a district-supported trip to a country where the language they are studying is the native language, said John Thero, director of instruction and assessment.
The exchange program is generating excitement among South Lake students.
“I think it’s a really cool idea that we have a school in China that we’re partnering with. I think it will give kids great opportunities both in China and here,” said Matthew Jackson, a seventh-grader at South Lake Middle School.
During his Mandarin class, Jackson said he tries to exclusively speak the language.
“I like it a lot. I thought it would be hard trying to remember all the characters, but it’s actually easy. It’s really a lot of fun,” he said.
South Lake first started teaching Mandarin in 2005 by sharing a teacher with Lake Shore Public Schools. The program began at the middle school level only, but soon grew so rapidly, that each school had to have its own full-time Mandarin teacher. Now South Lake teaches Mandarin at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
South Lake is currently part of the Global Education Consortium, which also includes Center Line, Fitzgerald and Warren Woods Schools. Last year, the consortium received a grant from the Foreign Language Assistance Program. FLAP is a federally funded program that provides three-year grants to states and school districts to establish, improve or expand their K-12 foreign language instruction.
South Lake is expanding its Mandarin education program by establishing the partnership with Greenwich School. To get the process started, Thero and Sandra Stanley, FLAP project consultant, joined a delegation from Michigan on a visit to China last spring. There, Thero visited Greenwich School and signed a partnership agreement with its principal.
Stanley said the impact of this program stretches far beyond just cultural exchange.
“In today’s world, it is extremely important that students are global citizens, have broader perspective, and learn to think in and understand different perspectives,” she said.
Thero said his trip to China was a great experience, and it taught him a simple yet profound lesson.
“It makes you realize that people are more alike than they are different.”