Although school has started at BFA for the new school year, the learning never really stopped during the summer. One of the major summer learning experiences was the annual Chinese Cultural Exchange program. For the last six years, BFA has partnered with Spiral International to bring students from China to our school and community. This year, 30 students from the city of Chongqing in the Szechuan region of China participated in the exchange. BFA teachers Sara Villeneuve and Emily Nieckarz facilitated the program with help of 15 student ambassadors and 16 host families.
The student ambassadors worked with the students each day to teach about our culture and learn about theirs. They discussed government, economics, school, recreation and geography. Every afternoon they would travel to sites throughout Vermont that connected to the discussions from the morning. They visited the State House, Ben and Jerry’s, Church Street, Saint Michael’s College and sailed on the Spirit of Ethan Allen.
The Chinese cultural exchange program was one of the best experiences I have ever had. My favorite part was showing the kids new, exciting things and being able to see their reactions. I also created lifelong friendships in just a few days. – Abi T, Student Ambassador
I love building relationships with the Chinese students! They are really fun! -Allison I, Student Ambassador
The curriculum planned by the teachers involved a great mixture of fun and learning both inside and outside the classroom. One of the highlights was Cooking Day. The students worked together to make dishes that were representative of their cultures. American dishes included macaroni and cheese, pancakes and apple pie. The Chinese entrees featured “Hot Pot”, Twice-Cooked Pork and Fish Stew. The students cooperated to plan and cook and everyone enjoyed the variety.
Personally, I really enjoy seeing all that Fairfax and Vermont have to offer through the lens of another culture. Our Chinese students are coming from an urban city of 30 million people, so to take them to places like the Sweet Farm, Green Mountain Main Lines, and Pure Livin’ Farms is a remarkably new opportunity. – Emily Nieckarz, Instructor
The host families agreed to provide a lodging and meals for the students, but ended up providing and gaining so much more. In addition to the many planned activities (Pool Party, Gymnastics Open Gym), host families exposed their students to many local events and family traditions.
The most memorable part of the program for the past two years I’ve participated has to finding a common sense of humor with the Chinese students. I remember laughing with Corrine about her catchphrase, “let me have a think” which she’d always say in English when she was trying to translate or respond in English. -Abbey H, Student Ambassador
In the end it’s difficult to say who gains the most from the experience; the teachers, the ambassadors, the Chinese students or the host families. No matter who you decide, it is clear that this global partnership is a great example of flexible learning at BFA.
I believe this is one of the best examples of students learning to be global citizens. BFA students, host families and our Chinese guests engage in more than just a language and cultural immersion program. The cross-cultural experience is immeasurable. -Sara Villeneuve, Instructor