Archive for Thursday, March 16, 2006

Students ready for trip to China

March 16, 2006

Lansing High School has been preparing to send students to China for an exchange program for almost two years. Those preparations will wind down Friday, when an 11-member contingent of students and teachers boards a plane for the Asian nation.

"At this point, we have almost everything done," English teacher Linda Leffler said last week.

Three teachers and eight students will leave Lansing High School about 5 a.m. Friday for a two-week trip to China, where they will participate in an exchange program at Kaifeng No. 5 Middle School and sightsee in Shanghai, Beijing and Xian.

There has been a flurry of activity leading up to their departure.

Senior Stefan Dumlao said he thought the group was "pretty well prepared overall," but there was some last-minute scrambling for students to find gifts for their host families. And, as of Monday, he said he had yet to pack.

However, he had prepared in other ways, such as monitoring the news and weather in China and writing down the addresses and phone numbers of the U.S. embassies in the cities the group will be visiting.

Leffler has to turn in her grades before she leaves, but otherwise, "I'm ready," she said.

Leffler said she felt confident going into the trip. The group has taken 24 hours of "survival" Chinese lessons to learn the travelers' basics, such as how to count, order food and locate restrooms or a hospital.

The students and teachers also have been in contact with their host families via e-mail, Leffler said. Leffler and the other LHS faculty going on the trip, English and foreign language teacher Mary Alice Schroeger and librarian Debra Hutton, also have communicated with the curriculum coordinator and the teachers they will be shadowing while they are in China.

The group will fly out of Kansas City about 8 a.m. Friday, Leffler said, and will arrive in Shanghai about 5 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, the group will travel from Shanghai to Zhengzhou, a city near Kaifeng, and will arrive in Kaifeng in time for a reception Sunday evening, Leffler said.

The group will remain in Kaifeng for seven nights, Leffler said. At the end of the trip, the group will visit the Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses museum in Xian and the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The group also plans to visit the Shaolin Monastery, where monks developed a unique style of martial arts, and caves containing Buddhist carvings, she said.

Of course, the trip is more about learning than sightseeing. The Lansing students will take part in Kaifeng classes, and the teachers will shadow their Chinese counterparts. The Lansing delegation also plans to put on roundtable discussions about American culture, Leffler said. Each of the students and teachers will speak about different aspects of the culture, including dialect, clothing, food, medicine, music, art, American life in general and teen culture. They will bring Kansas maps and travel brochures provided by the Kansas Department of Transportation, Leffler said.

Schroeger said she has prepared a lesson on the Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken," which most American students study in high school. If there is time, she said, the group may also discuss greetings, gestures, personal space, visiting, eating habits, family, dating and marriage, diet, recreation, holidays, education and health.

Each of the Lansing students has an assignment of an area of Chinese life or culture to observe, Leffler said. They will compile information so that when they return, each will have a specific topic to speak about, including business, medicine, art, literature, the reaction of two cultures meeting and martial arts.

One student, sophomore Rita Edmonds, will make a Web site about the trip, and Dumlao will start an East Asia Club, which the Lansing school board approved Monday. Organizations can contact the club if they would like to hear about the students' trip, he said, and students who did not travel to China but who are interested in East Asian culture also may join.

The students also have received requests from some other teachers who hope to incorporate information about China into their classes.

Dumlao said Cathy Smith, an art teacher, had asked him to bring back an example of art. Leffler said other requests she'd heard were from Carla Scovill, who teaches a film study class, for a movie poster in Chinese, and from band director Luke Johnson, who asked his students to try to make a tape of street music.

Leffler said the group would do its best, but time for shopping would be short.

"We have no idea exactly what we're going to find once we get over there," she said.

Students making the trip are seniors Dumlao, Jason Gibson and Lindsey Piper; juniors Natalie Hall, Michael Nielsen and Rachel Schifferle; sophomore Rita Edmonds; and freshman Jennifer Simpson.

TRAVEL TIPS

Mary Alice Schroeger, a foreign language teacher at Lansing High School, has taken students on trips abroad in the past and will travel to China for two weeks this month. Based on her experience, she had a few tips for international travel:

¢ Dress comfortably for walking or running through airports.

¢ Make sure the luggage has wheels.

¢ Don't wear anything with a heel or you will be taking them off for the security scanners and will hold up the line.

¢ Place all sharp objects in checked luggage.

¢ Pack at least two days ahead of time to allow for last-minute purchases.

¢ Don't forget adaptors or you might be buying a hair dryer to use in the other country.

¢ About a week before leaving, start cutting down on the caffeine and increase hydration.

¢ Only pack what you absolutely need.

¢ Be prepared to wear outer clothing several times to cut down on luggage weight.

¢ Always bring an umbrella, and always bring one fabulous outfit for a special occasion or outing.

¢ Pack some snacks for the airport layovers and take two bottles of water.

¢ Avoid carbonated and caffeinated beverages while flying. Jet lag will be easier to overcome.

¢ Leave the mace at home.

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