OSKALOOSA — A group of Chinese middle school children got to learn about American schools and life in the Midwest Tuesday on their first day of a week-long visit to Oskaloosa.
The 19 students, their English teacher who goes by the name “Snow” and Principal Pei Hongxia spent Tuesday morning at Oskaloosa Middle School before taking a field trip to New Idea Farm Equipment to do something they can’t do in China — ride on a tractor.
“So far, we’ve had a great experience,” OMS Principal Andy Hotek said. “This has been a fun and exciting time not only for our staff, but our kids. A lot of kids ask how they can shadow the Chinese students.”
The Chinese delegation is from the Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, China. The city is near Beijing.
This is the first time a foreign student delegation has visited Oskaloosa schools, Hotek said.
“It’s wonderful. I hope we can do more,” he added.
The Chinese students have had a busy schedule.
After flying to Des Moines Monday evening, the Chinese delegation arrived in Oskaloosa around 11:30 p.m., Hotek said.
Tuesday, their day began with a meet-and-greet reception at Oskaloosa Middle School.
“We had a breakfast reception,” Hotek said.
The Oskaloosa School Board and the Oskaloosa Chamber Ambassadors bestowed gifts to the delegation and the students, along with their host families, had breakfast, he said.
During the morning, the Chinese students were paired up with Oskaloosa students and they went to class together.
“I have been with Pei and Snow and we visited classrooms,” Hotek said. “We talked about the grading system and instructional practices.”
After lunch, the students visited New Idea Farm Equipment to learn about Iowa agriculture.
Oskaloosa School Board President Carl Drost gave the student rides in a tractor.
“We’re sending them out in pairs to ride the tractor,” OMS guidance counselor Amanda Hoffman said. “They will get to drive the tractor too.”
During the tractor rides, Snow and Pei got reflect on their visit to Oskaloosa so far.
“The people are really warm-hearted,” Snow said.
The weather is “colder than our hometown, but we can handle it,” she said.
Snow said this is her first visit to the United States; she also has been to Canada.
“It’s also a cold place,” she added.
Snow said that Oskaloosa’s schools are different than Chinese schools but she is impressed with what she has seen during her visit.
“Kids can be well educated here,” she said. “The teachers are professional and very helpful.”
Pei has visited the United States five times — this is her fourth trip to Iowa.
Pei was impressed with various aspects of Oskaloosa’s schools.
“The computer technology is very good,” she said.
Pei also was impressed with the personal attention students can get from teachers.
“They have special teachers to help students one on one,” she said. “We don’t have that in China.”
Pei said her students were very excited to get to ride in a tractor.
“The kids live in a city and don’t have the time or opportunity to see the really big farm machinery,” she said. Also, girls in China do not have the opportunity to drive a tractor, she added.
The students also had a busy day Wednesday with more classroom shadowing in the morning. In the afternoon, they toured the Mahaska County Courthouse and Oskaloosa City Hall. They also visited the Oskaloosa Police Department and Fire Department before touring Musco Lighting.
Wednesday evening, the students were the guests of a meet-and-greet event at Smokey Row.
Today, the Chinese students will perform an afternoon talent show at the George Daily Auditorium. Afterwards, they will tour William Penn University and then enjoy a Chinese New Year potluck dinner at the middle school.
The Chinese delegation will depart Oskaloosa Friday morning to travel to Des Moines for a visit. After they leave Iowa, the Chinese delegation will visit New York City and Washington, D.C., Snow said.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at email@example.com