Students from Happy Valley Elementary School and Shandong Normal University joined hands as they danced and sang together at the direction of music specialist Katie Tully.

This interaction was made possible through a partnership with Can Edu Consultants in Vancouver, British Columbia. A group of 19 students and three adults from Shandong Normal University came to Bellingham to learn with students from Happy Valley and Wade King elementary schools. The Shandong Normal University is located in Jinan, Shandong, China.

The students from China participated in regular classroom lessons with fifth graders from Happy Valley and Wade King, During their visits, the students listened to presentations about Bellingham and the schools they were visiting, performed for the fifth grade classrooms and joined students at recess.

During music class at Happy Valley, Ms. Tully chose the song “Haida” for the lesson because it would be a world language and style for both groups. The song is a repetition of the word “haida” and easy to learn.

“I chose this song so both groups students would be similarly challenged,” said Ms. Tully. “I had the students mixed together, hand in hand, singing in round. Singing together is a great way to bond and build community, even across language and culture barriers.”

Wanyou Liu is the Chinese language and culture teacher at Happy Valley, the fourth Chinese teacher to join Happy Valley since they received the Confucious Institute grant in 2013.  Liu prepared for the visit from China by creating welcome cards with Happy Valley students. He also coordinated activities with the fifth grade classes. During the visit, the Chinese students performed songs including their school song and traditional Chinese dance.

“I think the visit is important because the kids from both countries can learn from each other,” said Mr. Liu. “It’s a good way to build relationships between Chinese and American students. They get to know each other better.”

Liu shared that students exchanged email addresses so that they can continue to stay in contact.

At Wade King Elementary, students sat together during Chinese language and culture class taught by Wendy Hagin. Ms. Hagin said she kept the original learning targets for the lesson which included how to say the names of family members in Chinese. She paired up the fifth grade students with a Chinese guest student. The guest Chinese students helped the Wade King students speak Chinese accurately and later the students took time to get to know one another.

“It was amazing to see that all the kids were actively engaged and focused on their partner,” Ms. Hagin said. “The students looked sincere, respectful and focused.”

Ms. Hagin said she wished her class could have been longer and that the students had fun learning together.

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