I was recently part of a People to People Citizen Ambassador Program Science Education Delegation to China. Our group departed from San Francisco on October 12th, and returned to the U.S. on October 23, 2010. The Science Education Delegation was led by Page D. Keeley, Senior science program director at the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and immediate past president of the National Science Teachers Association.
My husband joined me on this trip, which made the travel experience a lot more fun. We had a wonderful time in China. We started out in Beijing in Northeast China, then flew to Guilin in the Southwestern area, and finally flew to Shanghai in the Southeast region for the final three days of our visit. Here is a brief summary of our trip highlights.
We arrived in Beijing October 13 with just enough energy to check into the hotel, freshen up, and enjoy a buffet dinner at our hotel. We began the professional part of our visit on October 14th with an in-country briefing by our national guide, Meng Lianliang (English name Bruce). In the afternoon we had a translator-facilitated exchange with representatives from the China Association of Children’s Science Instructors. On Friday, October 15, we visited with a group of professors at Beijing Normal University. In the afternoon we met with the principal and faculty at the Experimental Primary School affiliated with Beijing Normal University. (See photo at left and directly below.) Two members of the People to People delegation, Cathy Wallwork, elementary science senior administrator, and Zebetta King, elementary science coordinating teacher, (both with Wake County Public School System, Raleigh, North Carolina), gave a presentation on Science Notebooks as a way to teach literacy and science in their elementary schools. We closed out this day at Quanment Quanjude Beijing Roast Duck Restaurant, enjoying the famous roast duck and all the accoutrements—including fried scorpion. (See photo at left).
On Saturday, October 16, we had a tour of the most famous attractions in the Beijing area. First, we explored the Tian’an Men Square and then we walked through the Forbidden City. After lunch we hiked to the Badaling Great Wall.
On Sunday, October 17, we flew via China Air to Guilin, which is a smaller city (about 3 million) in a primarily agricultural area of China. On Monday, October 18, we took a bus north to board a 4-hour cruise down the Li River to Yangshuo. The Li River is considered the most scenic area of China. The landscape along the Li River is said to be where James Cameron got his inspiration for the scenery in the movie Avatar. As you can see from the strange mountains in the background of these photos—the landscape is unusual with the mountains shaped like irregular pillars and strange-looking knobs. On our way back to our lodging in Guilin, we stopped by the Xia Yan School, a local elementary school situated in a rural area containing many rice and garden vegetable and fruit farms. We also stopped by the South China Pearl Museum, which features fresh and saltwater pearls from the South China. The South China Sea area is one of the major producers of saltwater pearls. On Tuesday, October 19th, we traveled to the Guilin Experimental School, which is affiliated with the Capital Normal University. We had a discussion facilitated by our national guide and translator about the special focus on student psychological health provided at this school, which includes a high percentage of boarding students. A member of the People to People delegation, Caroline Chromey, director of STEM education, gave a presentation about the KIPP Charter Schools program. After lunch we visited the Tanxia Town Center School, which is a countywide elementary school serving a geographically distributed student population from the village and surrounding rural areas. We were greeted by the student band when we arrived at this school, and observed a science and English class in addition to having a translator-facilitated discussion with the Tanzia principal, administrators, and science and math teachers.
On Wednesday, October 20th, we departed for Shanghai. We attended a beautiful and impressive Shanghai Acrobatic Show the evening of our arrival. On Thursday, we toured the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum in the morning and visited the Shanghai American School in the afternoon. We observed science, math, and lab classes, and gathered for an open discussion with science faculty and administrators at the end of the school day. Immediately following the formal discussion, I introduced the NASATalk website and People to People Science Delegation to China collaborative with an invitation for all delegate and Shanghai American School representatives to join the collaborative. Our last day in China began in the heart of China’s financial sector as we strolled along the Bund river walk and viewed the towering skyline of high-rise buildings, most of which are less than 20 years old. We spent most of the morning at the Shanghai Museum. My most memorable experience was viewing a bronze vessel that was created in the 13th Century B.C. Next we toured a Shanghai General Silk Rug Factory, which housed a Qiandoa Mongolian BBQ restaurant as well as independent Kashmir and Folk Art Galleries. After touring the extremely crowded but still amazing Yu Garden and Old Town, we were given free time to visit the array of vendors in Old Town—including a silk factory outlet.
We left China on Saturday, October 23, and miraculously I retrieved the 12 hours I lost on the way over on the way home. Like many wonderful travel experiences, the time passes too quickly and in hindsight the experience seems to have lasted only minutes, not days. What did I learn? What kind of lessons will I hold onto from this whirlwind experience? Seeing the Chinese schools and observing their teachers in the classroom, I saw that their students are serious students, and their teachers are well trained for teaching science. Most of the elementary science teachers only teach science and have several planning periods to fine-tune their lessons. I was impressed with the positive energy and orderliness I observed in the cities and rural areas. I enjoyed seeing adults getting up early to start their day with light exercising and dancing. There is so much more I would like to go back to see in China.
The visit to China was wonderful; however, I am glad to be home where I am not forced as a woman to retire at age 55, and where my use of the Internet is not controlled. I learned so much on this brief tour of China as a member of the People to People Science Education Delegation. The two quotes below and image of a sign (one of many) posted at the Capital Experimental School in Guilin sum up my reflections on this trip and traveling overall.
- Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind. Author: Seneca - Yes indeed!
- No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. Author: Lin Yutang - Yes, very much so!
It’s great to have access to Google again, which I have referred to three times while writing this blog.
After log: West Virginia Public Broadcasting posted an interview about this People-to-People Science Education Exchange, and it can be viewed on the web at http://www.wvpubcast.org/newsarticle.aspx?id=17277.