Three high school seniors from Bengbu High School #2, jet-lag and all, have just spent their first week in Medfield and in the United States, anticipating their first day of school in Medfield High School on September 4.
The three students, YangXinyi, Zexin Jiang (know as Kaven) and Tianxu Shi (known as Tony) are the first students taking part in the growing Bengbu, China- Medfield year-long student exchange program. All three students will spend the year here in Medfield, staying with local Medfield families and attending Medfield High School as seniors.
They arrived over a day late, on top of the 14-plus hour flight from Shanghai, where their arrival was delayed after a flock of birds were caught in the plane’s engine.
The students come here with strong academic credentials and with a good understanding of the English language. Students in China are required to take English as a language every year starting in grade III.
While here, the students will enroll in regular classes with the other MHS students. They will also act as tutors and assist the Mandarin teachers with their classes in both the high school and middle school.
All three have quickly assimilated into the American mainstream, signing up for the cross country program and have been seen with the other Medfield students running through the streets of Medfield.
The Chinese curriculum in the Medfield schools has grown leaps and bounds over the past three years under the guidance and direction of Superintendent Robert Maguire.
Three years ago Maguire put his ideas into action by going to China and meeting with the principal of Bengbu Middle School #6. His week-long stay took him into the classrooms, meetings with teachers and on tours in and around Bengbu, and the Bengbu-Medfield "sister city" relationship was established.
That spring, Principal Chen from Bengbu Middle School #6 visited Medfield for a week, getting acclimated to the education system here in America. The following fall, the first teacher exchange took place with me, Richard DeSorgher, then a high school teacher, going to teach English in the Bengbu middle school for seven weeks while two English teachers in Bengbu came here.
Then two years ago, the first student exchanges took place.
First, by using Skype, students in the Blake Middle School were matched with the Bengbu Middle School students in an on-line PenPal program, exploring each other’s culture, language, and daily life experiences. Then 10 students from Bengbu came to Medfield for three weeks in the fall, staying with their PenPal families. Last year, it was Medfield’s turn with ten Medfield students spending three weeks in Bengbu Middle School #6.
The plan is to continue with those three-week students exchanges and now begin to look at expanding the year-long exchange program, having Medfield and Bengbu students spending an academic year in each other’s school.
Last year, 17-year veteran Bengbu teacher Hong Li spend the year teaching the Mandarin classes at both Medfield High School and the Blake Middle School, giving the Medfield students an actual Chinese teacher in the classroom.
The programs are funded by the Confucius Classroom Grant, monies that will be used to send Medfield students to Bengbu. Medfield was one of 16 school districts in the country to receive that grant and received yet another grant for this year. Students pay for individual transportation costs but costs for the trips on the exchange side of things are covered by the grants, it does not come from the school budget at all; those are all off budget.
This year foreign language is being expanded into the elementary level with classes in Spanish and Mandarin offered in grades 4 and 5, giving the students a greater chance to be fluent by graduation in either or both of those world-wide languages.
Plans are also being developed for Medfield High School’s national acclaimed band to travel to China for a series of concerts, including one in Bengbu where the Medfield musicians will perform with the student musicians from Bengbu.
YangXinyi, Zexin Jiang and Tianxu Shi will be members of the Medfield High School Class of 2013. They will spend the year in Medfield experiencing the every day life of a Medfield teenager: Going to school, doing homework, taking part in activities, being part of an American family and discovering the culture of America. They have already noted the difference of the small suburban Medfield environment to the larger city environment of Bengbu.
They were given a tour of Medfield this past week, taking in Medfield’s many housing developments, Noon Hill, town hall, parts of our history with stops at the Peak House and Dwight-Derby House, a tour of Electric Time, getting a library card at the Memorial Public Library, buying school supplies at Lords and sampling food and drink at Go Fresh, Blue Moon and ice cream at the Bubbling Brook.
Ni hao and welcome to Medfield!