THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Strengthens Intercultural Collaboration in 7th Annual Chinese Exchange

BFA Fairfax hosted it’s 7th annual Chinese Cultural Exchange program July 24-30. BFA Fairfax welcomed 17 students from Chongqing, China for a week of adventure and learning.

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Chongqing is a city of 30 million people, so our rural town presented a drastic change of pace! The visiting students enjoyed Vermont’s green landscape, clean air, and beautiful mountains.

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The Chinese students were graciously hosted by local families and attended the language and cultural immersion program at BFA Fairfax during the week. 12 BFA Fairfax students served as peer ambassadors to support the academic program. The program was coordinated by Sara Villeneuve and co-teacher Emily Nieckarz.

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This year, the students visiting from China ranged from 10-17 years old with language skills varying from emerging English learners to fluent speakers. Our Fairfax students embraced this challenge and learned new strategies to break through the language divide. Students could be found drawing pictures, sharing photographs and clip art with each other, using translation apps, and sometimes even acting it out.

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Each academic day students worked in learning teams on a curriculum designed to explore each others’ culture, geography, economy, politics, and education.  Accompanying field trips included the Vermont State House, Ben & Jerry’s, Saint Michael’s College, the University Mall, the Sweet Family farm, and Wandering Roots Blueberry Farm.

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Fairfax wasn’t the only stop on the students’ itinerary. Before arriving in Vermont they toured Boston, Washington D.C., New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.  However, during that part of the trip, students were housed in hotels and Chinese guides led sightseeing in the cities. Fairfax became their home-away-from-home and our BFA Fairfax ambassadors were amazing teachers and friends.

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Our host families also provided amazing opportunities and took Chinese students hiking, kayaking, boating, shopping, to ball games, bonfires, weddings, family reunions, and more. Our Chinese visitors and their host families were also treated to a culminating celebration hosted by the DeCell family.

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This intercultural opportunity is made possible through a partnership with SPIRAL International, a Vermont based organization. This year SPIRAL brought 425 students to New England. Locally, programs were also run at MVU, Burlington High School, and Vermont Commons School.

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In connection with the summer cultural exchange, a new global citizenship opportunity has emerged.  At the end of October, eight of the student ambassadors will accompany Sara Villeneuve and Emily Nieckarz on an exciting journey to China. Students will visit three schools where they will present workshops to Chinese students about American culture and teach about education at BFA Fairfax.

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The relationships formed through this intercultural exchange program has resulted in many positive experiences for our student leaders, our visiting Chinese friends, and our host families. The lasting connections forged across cultures and languages make this partnership an important highlight of the summer for our school and community!

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BFA Science Students Return from Exchange in Puerto Rico

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Students from BFA-Fairfax and Hartford HS recently returned from Puerto Rico.  They were participating in the final stage of an inaugural program developed to share data and communicate science on a global scale.  Students from several high schools in Puerto Rico had visited BFA and Hartford HS at the beginning of April.  These students and teachers are involved with the Center for Workforce Development and Diversity at St. Michael’s College Research on Adaptation to Climate Change program (see post).

(BFA HS students left to right Sophie L, Rebekah L, Bastien T, Rebecca C, Tom Lane (Tchr.), Alex F, David L leaving Burlington Airport for Puerto Rico.)

BFA HS students left to right Sophie L, Rebekah L, Bastien T, Rebecca C, Tom Lane (Teacher), Alex F, David L leaving Burlington Airport for Puerto Rico.

BFA students (left to right, Alex F, Rebekah L, Dave L and Bastien T) and Harford HS students out for a morning walk at a local sports and training center in Carolina, PR.  The Municipality of Carolina provided Housing in the dorms here for two nights.

BFA students (left to right, Alex F, Rebekah L, Dave L and Bastien T) and Harford HS students out for a morning walk at a local sports and training center in Carolina, PR.  The Municipality of Carolina provided Housing in the dorms here for two nights.

The Mayor for Carolina Municipality, Ing. José C. Aponte Dalmau speaks with BFA and Harford HS students at the Children’s Museum in Carolina, PR

The Mayor for Carolina Municipality, Ing. José C. Aponte Dalmau speaks with BFA and Harford HS students at the Children’s Museum in Carolina, PR

Students from Vermont were treated to a full schedule of scientific research. They collected forest and soil data in the tropical forest at Luquillo, the dry forest at Guanica and the tropical deciduous forest in Florida, PR. Students also met their counter part Puerto Rican exchange students and visited their schools in Carolina, Guanica and Florida, Puerto Rico.

BFA and Hartford HS students learn from PR students about tree identification and soil analysis at José Aponte de la Torre HS in Carolina, PR.

BFA and Hartford HS students learn from PR students about tree identification and soil analysis at José Aponte de la Torre HS in Carolina, PR.

BFA students, left to right, David L, Alex F and Bastien T at El Verde Field Station in the Luquillo Long Term Ecologic Research Forest (LTER)  in PR.

BFA students, left to right, David L, Alex F and Bastien T at El Verde Field Station in the Luquillo Long Term Ecologic Research Forest (LTER)  in PR.

BFA senior David L collects data in the tropical forest at Luquillo LTER, PR

BFA senior David L collects data in the tropical forest at Luquillo LTER, PR

Group picture with BFA and Hartford HS students at the tropical forest in PR

Group picture with BFA and Hartford HS students at the tropical forest in PR

BFA students observe a loggerhead turtle nest at Northeast Ecological Corridor (NEC), in Luquillo, PR.  Diana Ju, member of the Tortuguero Group led the tour.

BFA students observe a loggerhead turtle nest at Northeast Ecological Corridor (NEC), in Luquillo, PR.  Diana Ju, member of the Tortuguero Group led the tour.

Puerto Rican students from Áurea E. Quiles Claudio HS teach BFA and Hartford HS students about forest system dynamics at the dry forest in Guanica, PR.  Temperature that day was 122 degrees F.

Puerto Rican students from Áurea E. Quiles Claudio HS teach BFA and Hartford HS students about forest system dynamics at the dry forest in Guanica, PR.  Temperature that day was 122 degrees F.

BFA and Hartford HS students get a “behind the scenes” tour at the largest radio telescope in the world, Arecibo radio telescope located at Arecibo, PR.

BFA and Hartford HS students get a “behind the scenes” tour at the largest radio telescope in the world, Arecibo radio telescope located at Arecibo, PR.

BFA senior Bastien T collects data in the tropical deciduous forest in Florida, PR

BFA senior Bastien T collects data in the tropical deciduous forest in Florida, PR

BFA, Harford and Juan Ponce de León High School students in Florida, PR.

BFA, Harford and Juan Ponce de León High School students in Florida, PR.

The trip also featured relaxation time at the beach, a tour of a bioluminescent bay, an estuary tour and time in the city and fort at Old San Juan (est. 1530’s).

BFA HS science teacher.  Mr. Lane and senior David L share a kayak among the mangroves during a night tour of the bioluminescent bay at Las Croabas, PR

BFA HS science teacher.  Mr. Lane and senior David L share a kayak among the mangroves during a night tour of the bioluminescent bay at Las Croabas, PR

View east of the walled city of San Juan, PR from Fort San Juan, PR (est. 1530)

View east of the walled city of San Juan, PR from Fort San Juan, PR (est. 1530)

This science exchange with Puerto Rican students gave BFA students the opportunity to collaborate with peers from other high schools, develop relationships in the science world, and see a part of the United States very different than their home state of Vermont.

“We were involved directly with the research not just observing it. We really learned about the island plants, animals and the research that is being done on the island. It was a great experience!”  Senior, Dave L

“Puerto Rico was a tremendous bonding experience. We created a family of friends from Fairfax, Hartford, and Puerto Rico. Being introduced to new culture and experiencing the school systems outside of Vermont showed me how much opportunity there is in the world.” Senior, Alex F

“Traveling to Puerto Rico was an experience none of us will forget. We were able to meet new people, learn about a new place and grow as individuals. Learning how to salsa dance will also come in handy.”  Junior, Sophie L

“It was an incredible experience to develop new friendships, discover the culture and learn about the diverse environments of Puerto Rico.”  Junior, Rebekah L

Puerto Rico 016[You can also read more about this exchange experience in this published newsletter]