Two Minnesota state agencies have created a web site that allows students and teachers across Minnesota and the nation to follow the progress of seven student ambassadors who are in China this week as part of a state delegation of nearly 200 business, government, and academic leaders.
As China continues to develop as an economic and political power, “Minnesota recognizes that a closer relationship with this vibrant nation holds tremendous opportunities for our state,” the web site explains. “The Minnesota-China Partnership charts an ambitious course for our future with China on many fronts, bringing together public and private organizations throughout the state to promote all facets of Minnesota’s . . . relationships” with its Asian counterparts.
The Minnesota initiative comes as U.S. officials have stepped up efforts to encourage online and face-to-face exchanges between United States and Chinese students in general, recognizing the increasing importance of fostering relationships between the two nations (see story:Ed tech spurs U.S.-China exchange ).
Even though Forest Lake Area High School senior Ann Miron will be thousands of miles away, her classmates will be able to keep close tabs on her as she travels on Minnesota’s trade mission to China.
“It’s exciting,” said Miron, 17. “I’m glad they’ll get to see what we’re doing and learn from it.”
The mission began Nov. 11 and ends Nov. 19. The site features daily web logs, photos, and videos from the students as they travel through Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Students also have posted biographies and photos of themselves.
Mirons Nov. 14 web log entry from China begins, “Have you ever slurped snake or cracked open a turtle shell for dinner? Sounds like an episode of Fear Factor, right? Well, it is the norm here in China. Today I witnessed a seafood market where I saw and smelled things that I would never have considered to be food.”
The site also includes learning materials related to the trip that teachers can use in the classroom. Lesson plans were created by the Minnesota Department of Education.
For example, elementary school math teachers can have their students calculate the time difference between Beijing and their own city. Or high school students can learn about global agricultural production systems.
Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren has encouraged teachers to look at the site to learn how to integrate the trip into their curriculum, calling it “a wonderful tool for students to use to learn more about China.”
Mike Miron, Ann’s older brother, who is an agriculture education teacher at Forest Lake Area High School, plans to use some of the web sites lesson plans.
“I’m hoping this drives home the point that we can’t look at agriculture in the terms of just Minnesota anymore, or even the United States,” he said. “It’s a global market.”
Students back in Minnesota also can participate in four interactive videoconferences during the trip, where they can discuss China’s science, technology, business, trade, government, and culture with experts.
Each student ambassador has a special interest area to focus on during the mission. David Schiller of Tracy, Minn., will study the economy, while Emily Dahlman of Cokato zeroes in on education. Miron’s focus is agriculture.
She has already visited some elementary schools in Forest Lake to talk about the trip so students get to know her and want to follow along. She said the younger students were full of questions, especially about the language and the food.
Miron told them the Chinese language has 3,000 characters, compared with the 26 letters in the English alphabet. In regard to food, she told them people in the northern part of the country eat more noodles while people in the southern parts eat more rice.
“Everybody raised their hands when I asked them if they’ve had Chinese food,” she said. “I told them it’s nothing like they’ve had here.”