Chinese delegation visits Norwin's science, engineering programs
A delegation of teachers from two private schools in China visited the Norwin School District on Thursday to check out how teachers there are facilitating hands-on, student-centered learning.
The group of about 10 teachers and administrators are from the coastal city of Wenzhou.
They teach at Wenzhou Dalton Elementary School, which serves grades one through six, and Peking University New Century School, which serves grades one through nine.
They toured Norwin High School and Hahntown Elementary School to observe the district's STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — classes. They plan to take what they learn back to their home schools to work on setting up international and STEM-focused, high school-level programs.
In China, classrooms are often teacher-centered, said Lili Bai, head of school at Wenzhou Dalton. Students are expected to sit quietly and listen to the teacher lecture.
That's not the case in many American classrooms, she said, adding that she was interested in seeing how teachers at Norwin let students take the lead through class projects and group work.
She sees the trip as a chance to look for ways to combine the best of the American and Chinese education systems.
Maofa Huang, head of school at Peking University New Century, agreed. He said giving students the opportunity to work on group projects could help them develop better communication and collaboration skills.
He's also interested in looking at models for incorporating more community service into classroom activities.
“Right now, the U.S. education system is doing much better in this,” Huang said.
Looking ahead to the potential for student exchange programs, Huang added that bringing American and Chinese students together could make them better global citizens — a key skill for the 21st-century workforce, he said.
“When the kids become friends, it doesn't matter if you're on this side of the Pacific,” Huang said.
The delegation visited Advanced Placement biology and chemistry labs along with the high school's robotics and autistic support classes. They also met with members of Norwin's Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program.
Superintendent Bill Kerr said the visit was an opportunity for the district to showcase teachers' and students' creativity.
He hopes to be able to continue the relationship and send a delegation of teachers to China.
The visit was facilitated by the IFA-Pittsburgh Education Center. It's a local division of the Beijing-based education consulting service IFA-EDUCHINA, which coordinates student exchange and teacher placement programs between schools in China and the United States, according to Director Timothy Glasspool.
The organization has ties with local districts such as Plum and Johnstown. In addition to visiting Norwin, the delegation also visited Upper St. Clair School District and will close the week with a visit to schools in Harrisburg.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-850-2867, email@example.com or via Twitter @ Jamie_Martines.