Delegates from China’s Zhjiang Provincial Department of Education visited Delran High School Oct. 29 as part of a sister school program between Zhjiang, Kean University and Wenzhou-Kean University.
Erica DeMichele and Mary Jo Hutchinson, coordinators for Science, Technnology, Engineering, Math (STEM) introduced their visitors to the Fab-Lab while student STEM ambassadors worked hands-on to teach the delegation about different technology.
“This was the first time we did this using the digital fabrication lab,” said DeMichele. “We have done something similar where teachers from Brazil have come to Delran. That was very cool but, as far as I know, this is the first time a Chinese delegation has come regarding STEM in the state”.
According to DeMichele, the event at Delran came about when some New Jersey delegates flew to China to create a partnership with the sister school that would create and cultivate a STEM related cultural exchange.
In exchange for the New Jersey delegates going to China, a group of about 20 delegates from the country would come to America and learn how New Jersey teaches STEM education. One of their stops would be Delran High School, where student ambassadors developed a lesson plan based on a book called “The Dot,” by Peter Reynolds.
“The lessons in the story of “The Dot” translate across languages and cultures,” said Hutchinson. “You don’t need to be an expert to get started, you just need to make that first mark. Learners become educators and educators become learners and we got to see that with our STEM Ambassadors teaching our visitors today.”
Despite the language barriers between the students and their visitors, the STEM Ambassadors used cell phone apps to translate their words from English to Mandarin and vice versa. While the translations didn’t always work perfectly, the STEM Ambassadors were able to switch from learning to teaching. According to Hutchinson and DeMichele, when someone is able to make that switch, he or she has reached the highest form of education.
“I think it was transformative for the STEM Ambassadors to be teaching someone that doesn’t speak their language about the Fab Lab,” said DeMichele. “It makes you look into our own backyard here in Burlington County. There are people who don’t speak our language here, but we’re blessed to live in a time to use cell phones as tools to translate.
“There’s an opportunity for people to learn and grow together.”
At the end of the event, both groups presented each other with gifts. The Delran STEM Ambassadors and Coordinators presented the Chinese delegation with tote bags and laser-engraved coasters with the Chinese symbol for friendship.
The gifts presented to Delran included two pieces of art. The first depicts a plum tree, a symbol of strength and resilience in China. The second piece depicts the Chinese Thousand Character Text,a Chinese poem used as a primer to teach Chinese symbols to children.