Fresh from seeing a few of the sights in California, including Yosemite National Park, 56 happy and eager Chinese fifth-graders from Beijing, began the first day of their six-week attendance at the Aveson School for Leaders in Altadena yesterday.
It is the second year Chinese fifth-graders have attended the school.
The school day began with a noisy assembly in the school auditorium as the students learned about their new campus. After the assembly, small groups of the new Chinese students, dressed in green and white school outfits, were led on tours by confident and knowledgeable Aveson students.
Zhu Hongbing, Principal of Fang Cao Di International School, explained the relationship: “The United Nations Educational and Cultural Foundation originally helped us to build this partnership, and this is part of our philosophy. We want our students to have an international insight and perspective.”
The Fang Cao Di International School contacted a number of schools all over the U.S. before choosing Aveson and, said the representative, “It’s because of this, that our knowledge, friendship and understanding has increased considerably.”
The school, begun in 1973, was the first of its kind in Beijing, and originally concentrated its efforts on the children of diplomats, before expanding to include more students. “This was very unique,” said the Chinese representative, “this blending of Eastern and Western cultures.”
The Chinese students choose the American programs themselves, and then they are assisted by local sponsors, local school districts and their parents, in order to attend.
Emma and Rainbow, both Chinese 10 year-old fifth graders, nodded shyly when asked if they were enjoying their new surroundings. Asked about their career aspirations, Emma said, “Writer,” and Rainbow said, “Musician.”
“The barriers get broken down so fast,” said Tom Hyatt, teacher and Global Competency Advisor at Aveson, who acts as a liaison between the two schools and others. “All the kids become friends right away, on the soccer field, in games, and in the classroom.”
Indeed, at the first assembly, both the American and Chinese students cheered noisily for their teams in a mummy-wrapping contest, and then streamed out together in to the school yard for recess.
This particular collaboration between Fang Cao Di and Aveson owes much to Paul Xia, president of Karl Witte International Academy, which specializes in creating these collaborations, and helped facilitate the visit.
“When I left high school in China,” he recalled, “I went to university in Europe, and this was before the Internet. There was really no way I could be prepared for the experience. Now, we see our students traveling everywhere, and we want them to be prepared for every place.”
Which brings us back to the students acting as tour guides for their new Chinese schoolmates.
When we mentioned this to Hyatt, he said, “This is a little thing, but it’s very important to us. We want all of our students to lead, to be unafraid to get up before a group and speak. If you can do that, you can do a lot of things.”
According to the school’s website, “Aveson students receive an academically challenging learning experience with the goal that they become inquisitive and confident life-long learners, prepared to be successful in the global community. Educators, who we call ‘advisors,’ guide students through the Personalized Mastery Learning continuum, which celebrates students’ individuality and teaches them about learning itself. Students master all the necessary skills and content while building confidence in their ability to learn and thrive.”
Aveson School of Leaders campus is at 1919 East Pinecrest Drive, Altadena. For more, call (626) 797-1440 or visit http://www.aveson.org/.