Saginaw Valley State University, three local K-12 school districts and a high school in China are orchestrating a student and teacher exchange program in hopes of learning from each other's educational systems.
Eight students, four teachers and the principal from Chongqing's Friends High School are visiting the Great Lakes Bay Region before departing Oct. 4.
The Chinese delegation arrived Sept. 22, when the visitors were paired with host families from the participating K-12 schools.
Bay City Public Schools, specifically Western Middle and Western High School, have served as the hosts during the visit of the Chinese delegation.
On Oct. 18, a return visit connected to the partnership between SVSU and the Nan'an District's schools in Chongqing, China is planned. This exchange will involve three teachers and two administrators from Bay City Western Middle and High School along with eight Western High School students; four elementary school teachers from the Frankenmuth School District; and two teachers from Bay-Arenac Intermediate School District’s Career Center. The visit to Chongqing will be for a 2-week program.
Robert Maurovich, co-director of SVSU's Gerstacker Fellowship Program along with Carolyn Wierda, said the idea for a 2-year exchange program was born during a 2012 visit to China by the university's Gerstacker Fellowship, a K-12 teacher and administrator leadership development initiative.
“The idea is this exchange program could be a transforming experience for the students and teachers as they learn about a culture and educational system on the other side of the world,” said Maurovich, who will join the delegation visiting China in October.
When the Gerstacker Fellowship Program Fellows visited Friends High School, they learned it is a high-achieving institution with over a 100-year history serving 4,000 students in grades 6 to 12.
Before the group departs, the delegation from China will have toured SVSU, K-12 classrooms across the region, as well as local industries including Dow Corning Corp. Their 2-week itinerary also involves visiting Bronner's Christmas Wonderland, the Bay City State Recreation Area, the Dow Gardens, as well as a Saginaw Spirit hockey game.
Maurovich said a similar exchange experience is planned for the schools in 2015.
“SVSU's role has been as the convener, to bring everyone to the table and see how we can make this happen,” Maurovich said. “We have the expertise and know what it takes to put together a trip like this.”
Maurovich said the initiative could provide a template for future exchange programs.
“We hope to parlay this so that more school districts will have the opportunity to do this later on,” he said.