Friday, July 20, 2012

Kennebunk High School Welcomes Chinese Students from Sister School

Chinese students from the Tangshan Foreign Language School were in Kennebunk this past week. Here, students listen as Glenn Black, from the science department at KHS, teaches a morning class. (Photo by Tim Gillis)

By Timothy Gillis
Staff Columnist

Thirteen Chinese students and their chaperone are in town this week for a summer camp at Kennebunk High School. They are from Kennebunk High’s sister school in Tangshan, China.
They arrived a little later than scheduled when a connecting flight to Maine was cancelled at the last minute. So their first night in the United States was spent stuck in a Washington, D.C. airport, but the tired travelers finally arrived in Maine and were greeted by their host families from Kennebunk.
Principal Susan Cressey went to China last March and visited the Tangshan Foreign Language School, located north of Beijing. It was then that she set up the exchange.
“Students are fluent in English,” Cressey said. “I got to attend classes there. I was very interested in the discussions.” Classes are held in English in many schools in the area, Cressey said, and most classes have forty-five to fifty students in them.
“The classes stay put, and the teachers move from class to class,” she said, adding that – despite the large class size – behavior was not a problem.
“Only the motivated and brightest get to go to high school in China,” she said.
While they are here, the Chinese students will take part in science and math classes, tour the University of New England, and meet with a guidance counselor about the American college application process.
Each morning, the students will have about four hours of classes before they head out into the community to take in local arts and culture.
On Tuesday morning, July 16, Kennebunk High School science teacher Glenn Black got the students started on a lesson, with some help from KHS students Jace Valls (senior), Colby Harrison (senior), Kimberly Keithley (senior), and Caroline Smith (sophomore). Keithley is originally from China.
Also lending a hand is Sandy Cheng, a native of Beijing, who has been staying with a Kennebunk family for four months now, and plans to stay a couple more. When she heard about the visiting students, it just seemed natural to offer to help out.
She created a lesson for the Chinese students’ first morning session, but the flight delay has caused that lesson to be shelved for now.
“We will definitely find a way to fit it in this week,” Cressey said.
Black teaches a course called International Baccalaureate biology, which emphasizes looking at subject matter from a global perspective, so his involvement was also a natural fit.
Emma Liu, the director of Tangshan’s international department, is chaperoning the kids this week. She watched attentively as her students took in Black’s lecture, looking interested and engaged, albeit a bit sleepy.
The group plans to kayaking as part of an L.L. Bean outdoor classroom, visit Portland harbor, and have a farewell reception on July 20 at the Nonantum. They return to China early the next morning.