Janesville schools partner with UW-Whitewater for summer institute

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Nick Crow
July 23, 2015

WHITEWATER — Regardless of your feelings towards Taylor Swift, her music does serve a purpose, Janesville teacher Melissa Baier de Garcia proved Wednesday.

Baier de Garcia played a music video for Swift's latest single "Bad Blood" to a mixture of Chinese and Janesville School District students in Whitewater. She then had them practice reading the first verse using several emotional tones.

"'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood. You know it used to be mad love. So take a look what you've done. 'Cause, baby, now we got bad blood."

The students were paired to practice reading the verse angrily, happily, with sadness, as someone's mother, as a rapper and as if they were tired.

"Not only are they practicing pronunciation, but it's making them think about how they would interpret a native English speaker," Baier de Garcia said. "Mandarin (Chinese) is a very tonal language, but not to the extent that English is. In English, you can tell if someone is happy. They speak in up tones, and it's important for the Chinese students to be able to interpret that."

As part of the district's third international summer institute, the Chinese students are taking classes at UW-Whitewater in cross-cultural communication, iVideo, English language and ACT prep on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They take classes in chemistry, robotics and computer coding at Craig High School on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

"I think it's been great so far," said Candace Chenoweth, director of the Center for Global Education at UW-Whitewater. "The Chinese students seem very open, I think, and the American students dove right in and interacted with them and started to make friends. So I think having the American students participation is so key because it really gives the Chinese students an opportunity to talk with people they want to talk with."

The 18 Chinese students are staying in dorms at UW-Whitewater from now until they leave on Aug. 3. Ten Janesville students are joining them in the classes.

"The education systems (in China and the United States) are very, very different," Chenoweth said. "The U.S. class system demands more participation, more teamwork and more self-directed thought. Being here this summer will allow them (the Chinese students) to start to reflect on the changes they'll need to make in order to be more successful here."

"I think the first time you go to a country it can be so overwhelming, but the second time you go everyone has more confidence, is less anxious and can start to integrate into the culture more easily," she said.

This is the first year the Janesville district has partnered with UW-Whitewater for its summer institute. Attendance to this year's institute was limited to only foreign high school students because of the logistics of busing and housing younger students at UW-Whitewater.

Last year, 27 elementary students and 77 middle school students attended classes at Kennedy Elementary School in Janesville. Craig hosted the 21 high school students for the summer institute. The foreign students stayed with host families or in hotels.

Two years ago, 27 international students in grades 4 through 12 attended the institute.

A memo from superintendent Karen Schulte to school board members in June noted that the summer institute would have fewer students from last year because of "a conflict in schedules."

"We decided to continue the partnership with UW-Whitewater because it is a valuable partnership to our own students and to the SDJ," she wrote.

Foreign students attending the summer institute are being targeted to attend school in Janesville full-time for the 2016-17 school year. Each international student is paying $2,500 to attend the institute. Chaperones are paying $700 to attend.

Chenoweth said she is hopeful students attending high school in Janesville will then consider attending college in Whitewater.

"Our goal is to more than double the number of international students here," Chenoweth said. "We'd like to have about 600 students. Right now we have about 200. We have our work cut out for us."

UW-Whitewater has about 30 students from China, Chenoweth said.

Ding Yitan said he came to the summer institute to make American friends.

"It can give me a lot of experience attending summer camp in the USA," he said.

Qian Jinmeng said she has learned that Americans are more outgoing than she expected.

"I was curious about how Americans take class," she said. "It's different than taking Chinese class."

Janesville teacher Bob Getka said he enjoys seeing the interaction between the two groups of students.

"The kids have become fast friends," Getka said. "It's been neat for me to see the kids from China pushing our kids."

Chenoweth said the partnership between UW-Whitewater and the Janesville district has been important because it gives both the American and Chinese students the ability to reflect on their own cultures and the cultures of others around the world.

"Right now, these American students are having a global experience," Chenoweth said. "It's not the same as going to China, but for two weeks they can learn a lot about themselves and about Chinese culture."

"As they begin to reflect, they'll start to be able to manage the emotions that go along with interacting with a new culture," she said. "We're trying to give them that kind of a framework."

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