Beijing No 12 is a partner school of the JIA and a few years ago they started an international program for their high school students whose intent it is to eventually study in the United States for college. Within the program these students learn almost exclusively in English and all of the current students agreed to spend three weeks in the US to expand their education. They are joined by their Asst Principal Mr. Jin, Head Principal Mr Li as well as a math teacher.
JIA Executive Director, Rebekah Redmer hopes during their time here “…that the students can participate and share in the classrooms that they’re in and be able to infuse themselves into the community.”
In order to be as immersed as possible all of the Chinese students will be staying with gracious Jenison host families. For many of the host families, their Chinese student is the same age as their Jenison student, making for a special opportunity for peer-to-peer connections. “The Jenison students are excited to not only share with them our culture and their home but they’re also really excited to learn from them too.”
The Chinese students are kept very busy during their stay! The cohort is split into two groups for their school day to make it more manageable for teachers. Half of the group will be in JPS classes for the first half of the day and the second half will be meeting with JIA teachers doing their English course and after lunch they flip flop. Every day from 3 – 4 pm they are visited by guest speakers from the community, students on various athletic teams and clubs, and teachers and professors from GVSU. All of these visiting speakers give the students an opportunity to connect with and learn from various aspects of American culture. Additionally, from 4 – 5 they participate in SAT prep.
The success of the first Chinese Winter Camp has been a team effort by JPS administrators, teachers and our transportation team which has been “phenomenal” running a special route home at 5:00 for all of our students. “I think everybody is excited to have the opportunity to share because that’s what we do really well in Jenison but then also learn from [the Chinese students]. If the Jenison community wasn’t as open and as heartfelt as they are there is no way we would be able to do this. ”
In the Chinese educational system students aren’t given many options when it comes to their classes and learning paths. However, this program allows the visiting students to choose Jenison classes that would be new to them such as “America at War” and “World Religions”. They are also giving glimpses into their personalities by perhaps choosing all social studies classes or all art or science. “They’re selecting classes that they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn.” The adults will also have unique learning opportunities. Assistant Principal Jin will spend time with JPS Asst Principal Joe DeVries and both he and the visiting math teacher will attend the Macul Technology Conference with JPS teachers at the Amway Grand Plaza.
Amidst all the learning, snow days and 71 degree weather, the students are also able to participate in some fun, West Michigan activities such a Jenison vs Grandville home basketball game, a visit to Rivertown mall and lunch in the food court, dinner downtown and a Griffins game as well as seeing the Jenison High School musical, Shrek.
Mrs Redmer says that this type of experience is important for our students to give them the opportunity to make connections with same-age peers and “open up their perspective a little and appreciate other people for who they are. It does tear down stereotypes and open up opportunities to get to know people.” As a host of a Chinese student over the past school year, Becky says that as a mom, she has been able to see the experience of hosting grow her children and learn that “people are people, we’re all human and we’re all equal and we all have different talents and abilities, to learn to appreciate everyone for who they are and I’ve really enjoyed watching that in my own family.”