Sunday, May 15, 2016

Needham Students Learning and Making Friends in China

Over the April vacation, a group of Needham elementary students, parents, educators, and town officials traveled to Beijing, China to strengthen our growing relationship with the Daxing District, one of 16 districts in the city of Beijing. Accompanying the Needham contingent was a film crew from the Needham Channel, which is producing a documentary about the unique relationship between Needham and Daxing.

Needham and Daxing Students and Families
A highlight of the visit was for 23 Needham elementary and middle school students to stay with local families and attend classes for the week at our sister school in Daxing, the Feichenchung Elementary School.  Our Chinese hosts believe it was the first ever elementary and middle school student exchange between an American city and Beijing!

The partnership between Daxing and Needham goes back five years when Mitchell principal Dr. Mike Schwinden contacted a local group, Boston Ivy, to arrange visits of Chinese students, teachers, and school administrators between our communities.  This recent visit culminated in a new five-year agreement between the school districts, and Mayor Shao of Daxing signed an initial agreement for a new city to city relationship with Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick and Selectmen Matt Borrelli and Moe Handel.  Now the Daxing/Needham schools and city/town governments have established additional opportunities to learn, develop, and promote educational, cultural and community exchanges and partnerships.

Daxing & Needham Student Learn Together
For me, the power of this exchange and the evolving relationships between American and Chinese children and adults is the ability to connect with and learn about another culture, traditions, and system of government.  It’s harder to mistrust or even dislike a person from another culture and country if you have the occasion to play a game, enjoy a meal, or visit an historic landmark together.  Despite the challenges of language and custom, friendships have been established and new opportunities to develop understanding and respect are growing.  Consistent with our district’s core values—Scholarship, Personal Growth, Community, and Citizenship—I am pleased Needham is breaking down barriers and encouraging tolerance, empathy, and respect among those with whom we have differences.

It’s one way to make this world a little smaller.  And a little better.

To view a slideshow of our visit to Beijing, click here: China Exchange 2016

Thanks to Artie Perez for the photos!

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