Seven new students entered third- and fourth-grade classrooms at Castaic Elementary School on Monday as part of the district’s cross-continental educational partnership.
The foreign exchange students were all from a Castaic Union School District sister school in China.
The plan is for the students to spend one week at the school living with and learning from students of Castaic Elementary, immersing themselves in English-based education.
“Most importantly, we want them to understand a different culture and understand what real American culture is like,” said Fen Ruan, principal of the Los Angeles International Academy. “In China, they read a lot and speak a lot, but in America they can connect to the culture.”
This is the second time Castaic Elementary School welcomed Chinese foreign exchange students into its classrooms. In January 2017, Castaic Elementary invited its first group of foreign exchange students to its campus as part of the school’s partnership with the Los Angeles international Academy.
This partnership began in summer 2016, when Ruan reached out to Castaic Elementary School Principal Stephanie Beach to host students during the summer break.
Months later, Ruan contacted Beach again to ask if the school and district wanted to participate in a full immersion program during the school year.
After visiting China alone in 2016 and with Castaic Middle School Principal Bob Brauneisen in 2017, Beach formed sister school relationships with elementary and secondary schools in China and invited their students to attend Castaic district schools during the school year.
The students who arrived Monday morning were the first of four student groups attending Castaic Elementary School, living with host families and sightseeing during the upcoming two weeks.
“Over the next two weeks, we are having 21 students visiting our school from four different schools in China,” Beach said. “We try to pair them (the foreign exchange students) with kids of the same age and if we did, they’re in the same class.”
Students from both schools were excited to start their week with new friends from different countries. They eagerly waved to each other and said hello as they walked into each new classroom.
“This morning, (the foreign-exchange students) were up at 5 o’clock,” Ruan said. “They couldn’t sleep because of the time change, and mostly, because they were so excited.”
Some Castaic Elementary School students were also looking forward to practicing the Chinese language skills they learned during classes led by instructor Tiara Li.
“One class in each grade level has been having Chinese classes,” Beach said, “so some students will be able to communicate in Chinese.”
The students were also excited to learn more of each other’s language and help each other succeed.
“I’ve taught people English before and I’m really good at teaching English,” Castaic Elementary School student John Stynes said. “So we can teach him.”
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