For the second year, administrators from the Castaic Union School District visited various schools throughout China to form cross-continental educational partnerships.
For one week, from Nov. 3 to Nov. 11, Castaic Elementary School Principal Stephanie Beach and Castaic Middle school Principal Bob Brauneisen learned about Chinese culture, toured cities throughout the country and formed sister school relationships with Chinese middle schools and elementary schools.
“Not only is the trip to see the schools and make relationships with the schools, but they also teach you about their culture and show you some of the sights of the country,” said Beach, who was the only administrator from Castaic to go on the trip last year. “There are so many things that are similar but then there are so many things that are different.”
The partnership between the Castaic District and schools in China began in summer 2016 when Fen Ruan, principal of the Los Angeles International Academy, asked Castaic Elementary School to host foreign exchange students during the summer.
This partnership grew when Beach and Ruan visited China in November 2016 to experience the food, life, culture and education of China, and to form sister school relationships with each school in the Castaic District.
In January, Castaic Elementary School, Northlake Hills Elementary School and Live Oak Elementary School all welcomed young foreign exchange students to their classrooms as part of the international immersion experience.
Now, Castaic Middle School is also expected to welcome foreign exchange students to its campus following Beach’s and Brauneisen’s trip to China. During the week-long experience, Brauneisen formed partnerships with two middle schools abroad.
Beach and Brauneisen also visited Castaic Elementary School’s sister school and Live Oak Elementary School’s sister school who had students participate in the foreign exchange program in January.
“When I went last year I toured their first through third grade campus and this year I toured their fourth through sixth grade campus,” Beach said. “I got to see some of the students who were here last year and we brought them gifts.”
At the beginning of their trip, Beach, Brauneisen and Ruan also went sightseeing as they visited the cities of Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Jinzhou during the Chinese Lunar New Year.
“In Jinzhou we met with their education department and we were actually the first Americans to ever meet with their Board of Education and visit their schools,” Beach said. “They took us to a nice dinner and we talked about what education is like here.”
Beach said her experience this year gave her new ideas to implement in her school and provide her with more knowledge about Chinese culture and cuisine.
“There were some things that we saw that I would love to see implemented here like our sister school has a robotics lab and so I would love to create one here,” Beach said. “I think this time was more time to understand their cultures and their food which I think will be helpful to convey to our host families when the kids do come.”
The district plans to continue the cross-continental educational partnerships by inviting students in all grades to live with host families and attend Castaic schools.
“It’s open to first through eighth now and it just depends on which parents show interest,” Beach said. “Several of the schools would also like if we had teachers that wanted to come for a two-week period and be on their campus to share ideas and collaborate.”
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