By Lindsey Ziliak
Delegates from Dongyang, China, walked through Central Middle School classrooms Thursday morning teaching kids how to write Chinese characters.
That “authentic cultural experience” is one of the benefits of forging relationships with schools across the world, said CMS Principal Mike Sargent.
On Thursday, Central Middle School officials and delegates from Dongyang Foreign Language School signed an agreement to develop a working relationship that would benefit students at both schools.
Central Middle School, which adopted an international baccalaureate curriculum last year, now has ties to schools in three countries — England, Costa Rica and China.
“Exchanges of culture, history and language are important,” Dongyang Foreign Language School Headmaster Wu Haiyao said Thursday through a translator.
Sargent said the schools want to allow students to correspond with each other, but he’s not sure how to make that happen yet.
“We have some challenges with time differences,” he said.
When school is in session in Kokomo, it’s nighttime in Dongyang.
The students may be able to exchange emails or record video messages they can send to each other.
Sargent said he wants his students to develop an understanding of other cultures, especially cultures that are so different from their own.
“Part of our mission is to help students understand that people with differences can still be right,” he said. “You don’t have to agree with them, but you still have to respect them.”
That’s more important in an increasingly global society, he said. Students may find themselves working with people in other countries.
“It’s a skill set they really need to have,” the principal said.
Haiyao said the foreign language school also places added emphasis on communicating with students outside of China.
Students there already have exchange programs set up in England, Australia and the United States.
The Chinese dignitaries said they were interested in learning more about Kokomo’s schools.
They were impressed with what they saw Thursday.
“The teachers seemed very experienced and enthusiastic,” Haiyao said.
The Central Middle School students showed that they are also interested in learning about China.
The dignitaries were touring the classrooms and stopped in one for a few minutes.
A girl immediately searched the Internet on her computer to find a map of China. She then asked the dignitaries to show her where Dongyang was, said Dave Barnes, director of communications for Kokomo-Center Schools.
“They were so excited to show her,” he said.
The Chinese officials played ping pong with a student, sampled some American food, toured Central Middle School, and offered the students some lessons before leaving.
They have high hopes for their relationship with the Kokomo middle school.
“This will promote a more harmonious and peaceful society,” Haiyao said.