WCPS students complete two-week exchange in China

Wolf Creek Public Schools students and staff recently returned from a brief exchange in China. Photo supplied

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As Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) reaches its halfway point in hosting 15 students from Guangzhou, China, local students also had the opportunity to travel as part of the historic exchange.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) called the “One Belt, One Road Education Initiative” between Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China, and the Province of Alberta, WCPS became the first Alberta K-12 school district to formally sign an MOU with the Guangdong Region in China. This MOU opened the doors to the recent Wolf Creek International Learning Program (WCILP) exchange that saw 24 grades 9-12 students from seven WCPS schools travel to Guangzhou in March.

“It’s been a tremendous partnership between Wolf Creek Public Schools and the Education Bureaus in China focused on an extremely valuable experience for the students,” said Mark McWhinnie, WCPS assistant superintendent, who added the students that traveled to China were very well prepared.

“Previous to the trip, the students all participated in a five-month course designed by WCPS on China. This coursework prepared the students for their trip and the experiences on the trip correlated with the coursework by providing rich and authentic learning experiences.”

While in Guangzhou, the students connected with many different Chinese students while visiting several schools each day. The WCPS students were billeted with host families during their stay, which gave them an intimate look at culture and home life in China.

“The host families provided evening and weekend activities for the students to participate in, which further enriched the experience for students,” said McWhinnie.

“I am forever grateful for the incredible experience, as I have made relationships with Chinese students and Alberta students that will last a lifetime,” said Chelsea Johns, Rimbey Junior-Senior High School student. “This trip was an opportunity to personally grow and learn in different ways, and every student definitely got something out of it.”

That was echoed by École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School (ESLCHS) student Keanu Soco.

”This trip not only exposed me to the vibrant Chinese culture, but also gave me the opportunity to share our Canadian culture amongst the hundreds of students that we met while in China,” said Soco.

Students weren’t the only ones on the trip, as WCPS administrators were also there. Specific WCPS administrators that previously or currently host Chinese students and have sister school agreements were part of the experience. The group of students and division reps had an opportunity to receive an official welcome from the Canadian Consulate located in Guangzhou.

“Consular General Rachael Beddington met with the WCPS education delegation and shared about the important role that these educational experiences have with China and Canada,” said McWhinnie. “Students were treated very well by the Consulate staff, by their host families, and new friends from China. Many students expressed how much this opportunity meant to them personally and are still speaking about the value and importance of this learning opportunity.”

In addition to signing sister school partnerships in China, WCPS administrators also led workshops for Chinese teachers, which focused on Alberta curriculum, instructional strategies and the use of technology in support of learning.

Additional connections were formed under the MOU as WCPS Superintendent Jayson Lovell and Assistant Superintendent McWhinnie had a meeting with Jinjun Li from the the Guangdong Province Department of Education. Li is the Director of International Exchange and Cooperation for Guangdong, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and is an important partner in this MOU.

“Connections made through these meetings serve to strengthen the ties between WCPS and the Chinese Ministry of Education and Education Bureaus to maintain and further expand the MOU activities for the future,” said Lovell.

There are more plans in the works for the WCILP, as Chinese exchange students continue to learn at WCPS schools in Lacombe and Blackfalds, until June 29. A leadership delegation from one of the schools that was visited in China will attend the ULead Conference in May in Alberta, as well as finalize a sister-school signing with ÉSLCHS. There are also two different Chinese student groups attending summer programs in July and August in WCPS as well as short-term school year programs planned for Fall 2019.

During their time in Alberta, Chinese students are hosted by families. WCPS is looking for additional families across central Alberta that are interested in hosting an international student. For more information on hosting a student or to contact the program please visit the website at www.wolfcreekinternational.ca or call 403.506.6558.

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