The Columbia Public School District has worked with Shanghai Normal University and the Confucius Institute of the University of Missouri for close to two years to introduce the Chinese language to the public schools in Columbia.
The Confucius Institute of the University of Missouri is a nonprofit organization that receives funding from the Ministry of Education in China. The aim of the organization is to provide instructors with resources and training for the teaching of Chinese language. The school district is hoping to provide classes in Chinese dance, folk music, tai chi and art.
According to the Confucius Institute’s director and vice provost for international programs, Handy Williamson, they are looking at year 2016 or 2017 when the Columbia Public School District will have full implementation of Chinese language classes.
Columbia has just received a Chinese delegation of seven student-teachers. They would be teaching students in Columbia’s public schools about Chinese arts, culture and language. Six of these student-teachers are planning to stay through the summer and continue teaching for the entire school year, according to Michelle Baumstark, the spokeswoman for the Columbia Public Schools. The delegation is composed of two art teachers and five language teachers. They will be rotating among the classrooms for the Chinese lessons.
The school district now offers middle schoolers with Introduction to Chinese classes. High schoolers are offered Chinese language lessons from Levels 1 to 3. At the same time they are getting lessons in Chinese culture, such as history and calligraphy.
One of the teachers, Jenny Chan, who will be teaching calligraphy, said that the Confucius Institute did their selection of teachers from the Shanghai Normal University through a series of tests, and it took them six months of preparation before they were finally selected.
The program enriches both the minds of the students and their exchange teachers. One teacher, Mindy Fang, who will be teaching Chinese art said that the experience is a challenge because the learning environment is different and their students are quick learners.
For one hour each morning, the students from the sixth to the eighth grades who are enrolled in the Summer Expeditions summer school program learn about Chinese language, arts, history, calligraphy and culture. There are currently 55 high-achieving students who are participating in the four-week summer program. They will be receiving lessons writing, reading, science and math. Field trips will be part of their lessons. According to Superintendent Peter Stiepleman, every elementary school in the district has students enrolled in the program.
The Shanghai Normal University and the Confucius Institute will be sending eight Rock Bridge High School students to China in July to attend a summer camp. The district is planning to send teachers Annelle Whitt and Jana Wilson from Hickman High School to accompany the students. The teachers would be receiving lessons on how to teach the Chinese language better. All their expenses will be paid for by the program sponsors.
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