Dual-Immersion Students Connect with Chinese Peers

Draper Elementary students learning Mandarin Chinese have made contact with peers at their sister school learning English from halfway around the world. Fifth-graders in the Mandarin Chinese-English Dual-Language Immersion program participated in a teleconference with students at their newly designated Chinese sister school, Shenyang Wanghulu Primary School in China’s Liaoning Province, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015 in the Draper Elementary Media Center.

The event began at 7 p.m. with introductions of Utah and Chinese dignitaries. Draper students spoke in Mandarin Chinese to present about holidays they celebrate in Utah, while thier chinese peers spoke in English to present information about festivals they celebrate in China, chiefly, the spring festival. The students also exchanged questions in English and Mandarin Chinese about culture and life in their respective countries, from what they like to do in their spare time to what they eat for lunch at school.  

“This is a wonderful opportunity for Canyons District students to connect and practice language skills with native-speaking students of their own age at a sister school in China,” Canyons Board of Education President Sherril Taylor said. “We appreciate the Legislature’s trust in us to pilot the teleconference program, as well as the opportunity and advantages it gives to our Dual-Language Immersion students to dialogue with fellow students in China.”

District and Legislative leaders, including Board President Taylor, House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, were among dignitaries attending the event.

The event was facilitated by Legislative leaders following a trade mission to Liaoning Province, where the state of Utah has enjoyed a 10-year relationship with its Chinese counterpart. Draper Elementary earlier this year became a designated “Confucius Classroom” by China’s Education Ministry and the Confucius Institute at the University of Utah. The prestigious honor comes with a $10,000 grant to promote learning of the Mandarin Chinese language and cultural understanding.

“Liaoning is one of the most interesting, productive provinces in China. We’re privileged to have such a close relationship with Liaoning and excited to extend that to Utah’s schoolchildren,” Senate President Niederhauser said. “I believe the new friendships between Utah students and Shenyang students will last a lifetime, and bear results for generations.”

House Speaker Hughes praised the students’ participation in the Dual-Language Immersion program, as well as the opportunities the teleconference presents to them. “China has, in recent years, emerged as an economic powerhouse and has strongly signaled that it has no intentions of relinquishing this new role,” he said. “Utah’s Chinese dual-immersion programs place our students ahead of the curve by providing them with valuable skills that will allow them greater opportunity in the challenging and changing world they are inheriting.”

Legislative leaders plan to facilitate future teleconferences between Utah Dual-Language Immersion students and peers at sister schools abroad. Canyons would serve as a model in this regard.

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