Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

District prepares for exchange with Chinese school

September 22, 2005

Lansing High School soon will have an international cachet.

From Oct. 3-7, LHS will play host to two administrators from the Kaifeng No. 2 school in China as part of an exchange program that will kick into high gear in March, when eight LHS students and three staff members visit China with stops at Kaifeng, Beijing and Shanghai.

LHS Principal Steve Dike, Superintendent Randal Bagby and district administrator Donna Hughes selected the three teachers who will go to Kaifeng from a field of six applicants.

Those staff members - English teacher Linda Leffler, French teacher Mary Alice Schroeger and librarian Debra Hutton - will in turn choose eight LHS students out of the 29 applicants to the program.

The selections will be announced Oct. 3.

Lisa Harms said she was excited about the opportunity for her daughter, Jasmine Holland, who applied to the program.

"It threw me for a loop when she said she wanted to go," Harms said. "It's excellent. I'd love to go with her."

Sophomore Christine Cordes said she applied because "I've always been interested in travel. I lived in Hawaii, and so I know a little about Asian cultures."

The program is intended, Dike said, to prepare students for the 21st century world by emphasizing communication skills, problem solving and critical thinking.

"Academically, we can't continue to prepare students for the 20th century," Dike said.

The benefits of the program will reach beyond those students who are selected for the trip. At an informational meeting for applicants and their parents last week, both Dike and Leffler, who is in charge of organizing arrangements for the two-week trip, emphasized that students would be expected to speak to civic groups and classes upon their return.

The trip is scheduled for March 17-30. The selected students will take a 24-hour crash language course (eight three-hour classes) in Mandarin Chinese beginning Jan. 4.

Selection will be based on students' academic records, leadership and imagination, willingness to be ambassadors for the school and country, trustworthiness and interest in international studies, Leffler said.

To be considered for the trip, staff members had to take a course at the University of Kansas Center for East Asian Studies.

Hutton said she was excited after finding out Monday that she was selected for the trip.

"I'm looking forward to the cultural experience," she said, "especially the historical sites like Tiananmen Square."

As far as choosing which students get go, Hutton said, "I think it's going to be difficult. We have a lot of really good candidates."

The student exchange program is partly funded by the Carl M. Freeman Foundation of Olney, Md., and Kansas Consortium for Teaching About Asia, a program administered by KU. That leaves parents and students to pay a tab of up to $1,370, depending on the cost of airfare the program's travel agency can finagle. Expenses covered by Freeman include medical and travel insurance during the stay in China.

Dike and Donna Hughes, assistant superintendent of the Lansing school district, both went to China in November 2004 for 10 days, and their itinerary included much of what the students who participate in the program will see.

Hughes said the trip opened her eyes in a number of ways.

"Their culture is so old, they have a different concept of time," she said.

For example, Hughes said, only two thirds of the famous terra cotta warrior statues of Beijing have been unearthed, but there seems no rush to dig out the remaining statues.

Both Dike and Hughes remarked that the visit made them realize how small the world was and how technologically advanced China had become.

The Kaifeng school administrators will be touring the area in preparation for a visit by students from their school scheduled for the 2006-2007 school year.

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