Students part of a five-month stay, attending classes in Blackfalds and Lacombe
“This is a very exciting day for our guests from China.”
Chinese New Years is a day of celebration, community and family. For Wolf Creek Public Schools’ (WCPS) newest 15 students, it was also a day to meet their new communities and the families they will live and learn with for the next five months.
Through the Wolf Creek International Learning Program, 15 grades 6, 7 and 8 students from Guangdong, China will attend École Lacombe Junior High School (ELJH) and Terrace Ridge School in Lacombe, as well as Iron Ridge Junior Campus in Blackfalds, as they learn more about Canada, and practice speaking conversational English. Their arrival coincided with Chinese New Year on Feb. 5, and WCPS made sure to help the new students feel right at home with a welcome and Chinese New Year celebration hosted at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.
“We wanted to have a celebration that not only welcomed the students to Alberta and to Wolf Creek, but also allowed them to have a little bit of home to celebrate with their host families, classmates, teachers and community,” said Mark McWhinnie, Assistant Superintendent.
The event allowed students to partake in traditional Chinese crafts and activities, which they would do during similar celebrations back home. Students also gave presentations throughout the evening, to share with those in attendance about traditions and customs around Chinese New Year celebrations.
Just the start of their journey
“The diversity that the students bring into our school system and the exchange of ideas, culture and the appreciation for new ways of doing things is immeasurable,” said McWhinnie.
“There are a lot of differences in learning styles between China and Canada, and the students are fascinated with those differences and eager to get started.”
Grade 8 student Taiyang (Dirk) Liang, who will attend ELJH, said he is looking forward to making friends and seeing the differences in the classroom.
“I have heard Canadian education is about teamwork, which is a big difference and I’m looking forward to experiencing it,” he said. I wanted to try a different experience in education, and try many kinds of life to broaden my horizons.”
Many of the students have been learning English since Grade 1, and have been part of exchanges to other countries, but this is their first time in Canada. Greeted by a recent winter blast, the students got to feel snow for the first time.
“One student even took a picture of the sunrise on the winter landscape, they just haven’t had those experiences before and are very excited by it,” said McWhinnie.
Host families are vital
Through the exchange, one important partner is the host families, who open their homes to the exchange students. As the exchange is five-months-long, there is an opportunity and need for many host families, which as with past exchanges has included a two to three week summer program.
“We have families in place now to start the exchange, and are grateful to the generosity of these families. But as the stay continues we do need additional host families for that long term stay from now until June, as well as for the upcoming summer program,” said McWhinnie.
Host families can take any shape or form, from: individuals, retired couples, single parent families, families with children in the home, etc.
“You can’t get a better opportunity to gain and share cultural experiences while making lifelong friendships with some tremendous young people,” said McWhinnie.
A reimbursement fee will be provided to host families to offset some of the costs. If you are interested in supporting this program, or know any families you think would be a good match for this experience, contact Jamie Williamson at 403.506.6558, via phone or text.
The next step in the partnership
The exchange is part of a larger and historic partnership. Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the “One Belt, One Road Education Initiative,” between Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China, and the Province of Alberta, WCPS is the first Alberta K-12 school district to formally sign an MOU with the Guangdong Region in China.
Through this MOU partnership, WCPS has been invited by the Chinese government to bring a group of 24 Wolf Creek students to China for two weeks in March. Teachers from both countries will also exchange, as there are those from WCPS that will join the students in China, and in a few weeks two Chinese teachers will come to WCPS.
“That is a great opportunity for professional development and an exchange of ideas and teaching practices that will be a benefit to both jurisdictions,” said McWhinnie.