As underclassmen and advisors sit to plan academic schedules for the 2013-2014 school year, a new course appears in the schedule: Mandarin 5. Begun in the Fall of 2011, Proctor's Mandarin program has blossomed over the past two years, as significant momentum behind the new world language offering has developed. Last year, I wrote this blog post highlighting Mandarin teacher Jon Beard's hopes for future immersion opportunities for his students. Just a year and a half later, the first Mandarin trip took place as ten students left a week ago Friday for a weekend living and learning in New York City's Chinatown.
Upon return from last weekend's trip Beard noted, "This trip was an experiment of sorts. I wanted to see if Chinatown provided good opportunities for the kids to speak Mandarin and learn about Chinese and/or diaspora culture. I wanted to provide an opportunity for kids to have fun and bond across different levels of Mandarin and to give students the chance to take risks and play leadership roles in that learning process. I think it was a success on all levels." Below, students take in a Buddhist museum in the heart of Chinatown:
Beard added, "Some reactions from students were predictable; for example, some students found trying new foods a little bit overwhelming. But other students were thrilled by the new experiences as their reactions were surprising and immensely gratifying. One student, who is often under-confident during class, took a real leadership role during the trip and led the pack in terms of navigating the area and taking "linguistic risks" while ordering food or interacting with activity leaders."
Among those taking new linguistic risks was Nathaniel '14, who offered the following thoughts upon his return from the weekend trip, "The trip to NYC Chinatown was an eyeopener to what it is like to live in a culture that we had only seen in videos. This trip was a great way for us to use the skills and knowledge from Mandarin class and apply it to the real world. It wasn't like people down in NYC Chinatown knew that we were students, so when they spoke to us it was as if we were a part of their culture. It brought us closer to the language and really made us tighter as a group."
Throughout the weekend, students not only took part in cultural activities like ordering traditional Chinese foods, watching Tai Chi in the park on Sunday morning, visiting the Dunhuang Buddhist Art exhibit (video above), but received lessons in Chinese cultural activities, like the Chinese calligraphy class below:
As Beard continues to think about how to grow the Mandarin program at Proctor, his next step he says is to forge relationships with one or more Chinese schools so that students can communicate online through video chats and blogs. But for now, Beard says the experiment in Chinatown went well, "The group responded to Chinatown overall with great humor, openminded attitudes and group cohesiveness/integrity. I'm so incredibly proud of them!"
Mandarin students have prepared all spring for their recent trip to Chinatown where they experienced Chinese culture first hand.
Jay was kind enough to share the following images with me and could not say enough about the experience he had on the trip!
Despite spending less than 48 hours in New York's Chinatown, students and faculty were still able to attend a Chinese caligraphy class, visit the Dunhuang Buddhist Art exhibit, visit observe Tai Chi in the park, sample a wide range of foods, and speak plenty of Mandarin!
Mandarin teacher Jon Beard could not say enough about his students, "I'm so proud of them for being willing to try new things and to embrace the cultural in which they were immersed!"