Finding Global Awareness in China

Rochester Community Schools grow Cultural Awareness Opportunities for Students

For the first time, Rochester Community Schools will be providing fifteen eighth and ninth-grade students with the opportunity to travel to China with six staff members. These students will be immersed in the language and culture of the world’s second largest economy for ten days.

“We are looking to challenge our students through dynamic cultural experiences,” said Superintendent Robert Shaner, Ph.D. “Our students will attend a Chinese school for two days, and learn, first hand, about the traditions and customs of their host family. They will also be able to tour the historical sites of Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Beijing.”

Chinese school officials welcome RCS administrators - photo by Rochester Community Schools

Chinese school officials welcome RCS administrators – photo by Rochester Community Schools

Global Awareness is one of three goal areas identified in the district’s strategic plan. The initiative includes the facilitation of international exchanges and school partnerships, as well as the expansion of world language opportunities throughout the K-12 curriculum.

“We have established a partnership with a school district in Zhangjiagang, a city located about 200 miles from Shanghai, where our school students will be visiting and staying with host families,” said Executive Director of Elementary Education Michael Behrmann. “Education in China is highly regarded, valued and prized, and we are so excited to provide our students with this unique opportunity.”

As a precursor to the student trip, the Institute of Higher Education Exchange Collaborative (IHEEC) hosted a delegation trip to China, where four RCS administrators were able to solidify plans for the student trip and further establish meaningful partnerships. “We originally had a number of schools that we thought were a good fit for our students; however, after personally meeting with school and government officials, teachers, and parents at five different locations, we altered the course of our original direction to meet our district’s standards and needs,” said Shaner.

The delegation trip not only focused on current initiatives; but it also served as the foundation to support future opportunities.

Van Hoosen Principal Dan Mooney visits traditional Chinese classroom - photo by Rochester Community Schools

Van Hoosen Principal Dan Mooney visits traditional Chinese classroom – photo by Rochester Community Schools

“During the delegation trip, we were able to sign a nonbinding memorandum of understanding between Van Hoosen and Jiansu Liangfeng Middle Schools to establish a sister-school relationship and continue planning our long-term exchange experiences,” said Behrmann. “This was great next step forward in pursuing the global components of our strategic plan.”

“As educators, we want to present opportunities to our children which will inspire them to make a positive impact on the world,” said Shaner. “If we’re going to be true to our strategic plan, we must continue to reach out and establish partnerships with other countries across the globe.”

Currently, Rochester Community Schools offers international students the opportunity to study and earn credits at three of the high schools. The district has 15 international students representing six different countries, including Spain, Brazil, Germany, China, Vietnam, and Japan.

Expanding world languages through the RCS K-12 curriculum is also part of the Global Awareness initiative. In 2014-2015, the district introduced Chinese language and culture exposure in all of its elementary schools, as well as middle schools at the seventh-grade level. All first, second, third and fourth graders receive 30 minutes of instruction per week, and seventh graders receive a two-week block as part of the Introduction to World Language course. High school students are also provided the opportunity to study international languages in Chinese, Spanish, French, and German.

“We started our elementary program with Chinese because it has developed as a language of great prominence in the world in which we live, and because China is a global economic superpower,” said Behrmann. “We felt that it would be advantageous for students to have that global perspective.”


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