High school students at the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center had special visitors last week.
Chinese teachers visiting the United States through Western Kentucky University’s Confucius Institute taught students about their country’s language and culture. Such lessons are the mission of the Confucius Institute, said Cheryl Kirby-Stokes, coordinator of education and community outreach for the institute.
Each year, the institute brings in teachers from China to provide classes at local schools, she said. This year, 23 Chinese teachers are visiting 21 schools in six counties.
Visiting the juvenile detention center is part of the community outreach aspect of the institute, Kirby-Stokes said.
“We’re trying not to just reach out to traditional classrooms,” she said. “These students would not necessarily have the chance to learn this otherwise. They deserve the same opportunity to learn about China that students in traditional settings have.”
The detention center does a lot of cooperative work with WKU, said Rebecca Painter, a teacher at the center. When she found out about the Confucius Institute, she invited Chinese teachers to visit.
“Our goal is to do some cultural awareness with these children,” she said.
Many people can get locked into their own group, so it’s important to learn about other cultures and become more accepting, Painter said.
“It broadens their horizons and lets them see a global world,” she said.
Last week was the second time Chinese teachers Shanfeng Guo and Xiaolin Tian visited the detention center. They also plan to come twice next semester.
Guo and Tian used a PowerPoint presentation to teach students at the detention center about Chinese history, geography, culture, language and written characters.
The lesson was interactive - students guessed where places were, what characters meant and repeated how to say basic Chinese words. They also got the chance to write basic strokes used in characters.
Guo said she’s enjoyed observing a different culture and seeing the American way of life.
“American students are more active than Chinese students,” she said, participating more and engaging in the lesson. “I want to teach them more about Chinese culture, not just language.”
Tian said coming to the U.S. has helped her get along with Americans. In China, she majored in English, but was still surrounded by Chinese people every day. Here, she can learn to fit into the culture.
It’s also helped her become more confident, Tian said.
“When I saw those students reacting, it gave me the courage to move on and continue,” she said.
Students at the detention center are no different from those in traditional classrooms, Tian said.
“They’re just as lovely as the normal kids,” she said.
Students at the detention center enjoyed the lesson.
“It breaks up the schedule,” said a 16-year-old boy at the center. Legally, names of kids at the detention center cannot be revealed.
The boy especially enjoyed learning about Chinese architecture, and seeing buildings where the 2008 Olympics took place in Beijing.
“It’s something good to learn just in case you meet a Chinese person,” he said.
A 16-year-old girl at the center said she found the information very interesting and wants to learn more about China’s dynasties.
“I’m really interested in traveling,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to visit China and think it would come in handy.”