Six of our 8th graders had the opportunity to visit China as part of our cultural exchange program. The purpose of this trip was to provide our students with an opportunity to visit another county, experience the education system, understand exactly what it means to be a “global learner,” and show our host students a little bit about our culture as well.
Throughout our 8 days abroad, the students got to visit several cities – Shanghai, Hefei, and Changfeng. The mixture of big city and small town gave our Feaster learners a better understanding of how diverse a country can be within its own borders. As part of our goal to provide our learners at Feaster with every learning experience possible, we made sure that the children with us immersed themselves in the daily lives of their host students. This meant that they attended classes during the day and went to field trips in the afternoon with our host school.
During the day, all Feaster Charter students spent time in a classroom with the Changfeng boarding school students who were participating in the Summer Camp. For two days, the students received lessons from two teachers from Feaster Charter, Elizabeth Aderholdt and Heather Walker.
During these sessions, the students learned about collaboration, accountable talk, the culture of each county, coding, and communication.
A reflection from one of our Feaster Charter students:
“I learned that school is very different in China. The students are used to taking notes from a lesson, not collaborating.”
On the final day in Changfeng, all students got together and experienced an art lesson where they participated in Chinese Paper Cutting and calligraphy. Here, the students had to rely on one another to complete their work. Collaboration and communication became essential as the students planned their designs for their paper cutting project and as they started to understand how precise calligraphy needs to be. They learned how to work around the language barriers and communicate with gestures and universal signals. Together, they completed the project and learned more than the simple objectives of the lesson.
Cultural Experiences Outside of School
Following the morning lessons, the local students and the Feaster students experienced the cultural and historical sites that border the small town of Changfeng. We were able to see an Ancient Wall in a nearby city, a museum, and a grape farm.
These field trips were valuable because it allowed the students to connect and communicate on a different level than they would in a classroom setting. They began teaching each other games, sharing stories from their daily lives, and finding similarities amongst their ways of living.
Regardless of location, it was clear that kids across the world still love to be together, joke around in similar ways, and have the same level of enthusiasm about new experiences. These experiences outside of school showed our students that they have more in common than they originally expected.
This experience was a cultural exchange because it gave the opportunity for both students from Chula Vista and students from Changfeng to learn about each other.
Feaster learners experienced life in the dorms of the boarding school, the typical academic lesson the students at Changfeng learn, and the typical diet of the the local population. The students from Changfeng were left with a better understanding of the focus on collaboration and communication in education, the use of technology in education, and the ways of life of the typical middle school student.
Upon reflecting on the way home, one Feaster student realized that “No one fully understands another culture…” He went on to explain that it is not until you live their life that you start to understand their culture.
The exchange concept comes in when both cultures get to learn from each other and understand a different way of life. The group who participated in this experience have forever been impacted by the real life lessons they have learned.
Overall, this experience provided our learners with the opportunity to be immersed in a cultural exchange. They represented Feaster Charter, learned from local students, and understood more about what it means to be a global learner. This experience provided them with connections that they now have in another country. They will continue to foster these relationships and communicate with their host students via Wechat. It is a crucial skill to be able to better understand ways of living and learning from countries abroad. Our learners are now equipped with the skills necessary to communicate and collaborate with others across the world.