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Lakeridge Elementary goes global

Lakeridge Elementary School is playing host to fourth and fifth-grade exchange students from China this week. Top, from left, are Li Yunhao, Zhong Yong, Yuan Haoxuan, Cai Fuming and Zhu Zhengyu. Kneeling, from left, are Guo Xingyu, Li Niyan, Tang Ziling and Zhong Jiani. - Linda Ball/Staff Photo
Lakeridge Elementary School is playing host to fourth and fifth-grade exchange students from China this week. Top, from left, are Li Yunhao, Zhong Yong, Yuan Haoxuan, Cai Fuming and Zhu Zhengyu. Kneeling, from left, are Guo Xingyu, Li Niyan, Tang Ziling and Zhong Jiani.
— image credit: Linda Ball/Staff Photo

Students at Lakeridge Elementary School are making international friends this week. As a part of the Northwest International Student Exchange, a dozen fourth and fifth-grade students from Chengdu, in the Sichuan province of China, are in a week-long immersion program.

Support coordinator for NWISE, Lara Clark, said the smaller class size, paired with the globalization agenda at Lakeridge, are two of the reasons she contacted the school to participate in the program. Another six Chinese students are on Bainbridge Island this week, and three groups are in Oregon.

Lakeridge principal Fred Rundle said that part of the district’s 20/20 vision was developed around a global perspective with “a focus on moving students toward understanding real-world problems.

“We have (our own) students from all over the world, but this is different because these kids are going to school in another country,” Rundle said.

He said having the Chinese students at Lakeridge teaches his students leadership, citizenship and personal development, since they are all interacting — and the Chinese kids speak very limited English.

“It’s nice to have other kids in the ‘house,’ and learn about Chinese kids,” said Lakeridge fifth-grader Megan Empey.

It was Clark’s job to find interested schools and host families.

“Eight families are graciously hosting these kids as volunteers, which also means kids in eight families are acting as host kids,” Rundle said.

Both Clark and Rundle said the parents, teachers and students “embraced (the program) and ran with it.” They had no problem finding host families.

Accompanying the students are two adult chaperones, Eric Yin, Clark’s counterpart on the Chinese side, and Vicki Liao, a second-grade math teacher in Chengdu. This is Yin’s seventh trip to the United States and the first visit for Liao. This is the first time the program has been brought into the schools during the academic year.

The Chinese students will visit the high school this week to visit with the students there who are studying Chinese, as well as participating in a ceramics/pottery project with an art teacher at MIHS.

Rundle said the exchange was going very well, saying that their success depends on the community’s willingness to be ambitious and take risks.

Clark said host families are needed for the summer program, which is for the 10-year-old age group, and lasts for 10 days. It’s a “camp” where they work with the Chinese students on their English and participate in a number of art and activities that the host family can get involved in, too.

For more information, visit www.NWISE.org.

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