Meade High Confucius Classroom celebrates Chinese culture

Confucius Classroom teacher Jing Dai demonstrates the large smart monitor she uses in teaching Chinese lessons. (Photo by Phil Grout)

Meade High School officially opened its Confucius Classroom in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday morning.

The classroom is dedicated to the instruction of the Chinese language and culture.

Meade High offers instruction in Mandarin Chinese for all students and is an integral part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. The school also offers an Advanced Placement Mandarin Chinese class.

The Confucius Classroom is the result of a seven-year partnership between Meade High and the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland.

“This is a testimony to how strong we are in our partnerships,” said John Yore, principal at Meade High. “… Our students are the true beneficiaries.”

Cultural Learning

Established with support from Hanban, also known as the Office of Chinese Language Council International, the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland promotes the understanding of China today through the study of Chinese language, culture, ethics and philosophy, according to its website.

“The Confucius Classrooms are a relationship that is established between the Confucius Institute and area schools that have an interest in and can support Chinese language and culture teaching,” said Rebecca McGinnis, coordinator at the institute.

There are 10 Confucius Classrooms throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. Meade High School has the first Confucius Classroom in Anne Arundel County.

“Being a part of the Confucius Institute is a huge thing,” said Patrick McCarthy, chair of Meade’s World and Classical Language Department. “It allows us to build a cultural connection with China and allows our students to be more aware of their Chinese counterparts to learn what their everyday lives are like, and the culture and traditions.”

Jianxin Cui, deputy director at the Confucius Institute, said Meade High was selected because of its steadfast commitment to the Chinese language and culture.

At the ribbon cutting, several cultural artifacts from the Confucius Classroom were on display that were donated by the Hanban. The artifacts included a calligraphy set, a Chinese chess game, an abacus, a martial arts fan, performance masks from the Peking Opera, and a ceremonial dress worn by queens and princesses during the Qing Dynasty.

After the ceremony, Jan Salvador Ochida, a sophomore in the IB Diploma Programme, played the guzheng, an ancient Chinese string instrument.

A group of students later performed a dance to music from “Kung Fu Yoga,” a movie about Chinese and Indian culture.

A catered lunch from Mai Garden, a local Asian restaurant, was provided to faculty and guests.

“We have been partnering with the Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland at College Park for several years,” said Jing Dia, Meade High’s Chinese language instructor. “This finally symbolizes that after patience and hard work, we finally have a space that sets us apart.”

The Confucius Classroom at Meade High, one of 10 in Maryland and Washington, D.C., is dedicated to the instruction of the Chinese language and culture. (Photo by Phil Grout)

China In The Classroom

In October, Meade High received the first installment of a $50,000 five-year Confucius Classroom grant from the institute. The first $10,000 installment was used to purchase iPads for use in the classroom and to cover the costs of field trips to the Chinese Embassy and Chinatown in Washington, D.C.

The high school also invited Chinese artists to demonstrate how folk art is used in Chinese culture, and students have learned how to prepare authentic Chinese food to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Jennifer Hernandez, the coordinator for World and Classical Languages for the Anne Arundel County Public Schools, worked with Cui for more than five years to establish the grant for the high school.

Hernandez said they collaborated to create a vision for the Confucius Classroom in its expansion of Chinese instruction at the high school, encouraging student enrollment in Chinese language classes and ensuring that students can have an authentic experience in learning about Chinese culture.

The Confucius Classroom and the grant reflect the importance of building “friendship and peace between the two countries,” Cui said.

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