The Draper Dragons received a special visit this week from a Chinese dignitary. Education Minister Counselor Cen Jianjun toured Draper Elementary’s Mandarin Chinese-English Dual Language Immersion classrooms while on a visit to Utah sponsored by Brigham Young University.
Fourth and fifth grade students had a chance to interact directly with Counselor Cen, and ask him questions about where he lives and the types of food he likes to eat. “Ask him if he knows about cotton candy,” an enthusiastic student asked her teacher after struggling to describe the fluffy confection in Mandarin. Younger students sang songs and performed language and math drills to the visibly-impressed audience. Counselor Chen and his guests were joined by Canyons Superintendent Dr. Jim Briscoe, Board of Education Second Vice President Nancy Tingey and Board member Amber Shill.
Draper Elementary is one of eight schools in Utah selected by China’s Education Ministry and the Confucius Institute at the University of Utah to house “Confucius Classrooms.” This isn’t the school’s first foray into diplomacy. Last year, at the Utah Capitol a group of Draper students held a live teleconference with students at a sister school in China. Utah lawmakers hope to expand the digital diplomacy sessions, which give young learners a chance to hone their language skills and observe and learn differences in social norms and cultural beliefs.
Utah’s Dual Language Immersion Program was created by lawmakers in cooperation with former Gov. Jon Huntsman who is fluent in Mandarin and also served as U.S. Ambassador to China. CSD’s first immersion classes opened in 2009, the same year that the District was founded. The District is now home to eight elementary immersion programs, eight middle school programs, and soon will have world language programs in its high schools.