For two weeks in January, Castaic Elementary School will be accommodating 25 additional students in its classrooms as part of a cross-continental educational partnership.
The partnership includes schools within Castaic Union School District, the Los Angeles Language Academy and Dalian Dante Education Consulting Co., Ltd, and allows students from China to immerse themselves in English-based education and visit local sights.
Castaic Elementary School Principal Stephanie Beach said the partnership first began last summer, when Ruan Fen, principal of the LA Language Academy, reached out to the school to host students over the summer.
“We had students come here during the summer for a week and did basic English skills with one of our kindergarten teachers,” Beach said. “At that time students came with their parents and so they spent a week at school and went sightseeing and traveling for a week.”
This September Fen reached out to Beach again, asking if Castaic Elementary would be interested in hosting the students for two weeks.
“She asked if we could have students come to our school again, but this time for two weeks,” Beach said. “They would not attend special classes; they would attend regular classes with our students.”
Students from Hunnan No. 1 Elementary School, Castaic Elementary’s sister school in China, will have a regular experience and will stay with host families during their visit. They will also have the opportunity to go sightseeing at locations like Yosemite, Disneyland and Magic Mountain.
The 25 students attending Castaic Elementary in the spring had to complete applications before they were admitted to the program.
“The students coming to us from there are third through sixth grade,” Beach said. “They have to be high achieving students. They have to be proficient in their English speaking and have parental support.”
Before the students from China arrive, Beach said the school plans on competing general education on China and its language. With the program, Beach hopes students will understand what different cultures are like.
“Hopefully they will get the interest and want to learn about another culture and another language,” she said.
Beach had the opportunity to meet many of the students visiting Castaic Elementary when she visited China in mid-November on a six-day roundtrip visit sponsored by Dalian Dante Education Co.
“I actually visited six schools when I was there: four elementary schools, a middle school and a high school,” she said.
She also signed up all of the schools within the Castaic Union School District up for partnerships with schools she visited in China.
“All three elementary schools and the middle school in our district now have a sister school,” Beach said.
However, Castaic Elementary will be the first school to house students through the partnership. Other district schools are expected to welcome students to their hallways in the 2017-18 schoolyear.
“They would also love for us, our school district, to send students over to China so that’s something we are definitely going to be looking into and planning for,” Beach said.
During her six-day journey, Beach experienced the life, culture, food and education of various schools in China.
“There were so many things that were similar to our school,” she said. “They’re very much studying similar things.”
One element that was different between American and Chinese education was the amount of culture and history involved in Chinese education through instructions like character writing.
“They incorporate their heritage into the education process,” Beach said. “One of the schools I visited did a traditional tea ceremony and they had shown us a performance of a Chinese opera the school had done.”
Beach got to do her own sightseeing as well, stopping at sites like the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China on her final day in Beijing.
Looking forward, the school and district is still in the final stages of planning and organizing the partnership between the two schools in two months.
According to Beach, all of the plans and living accommodations will be finalized before the school goes on winter break this December.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_