It takes a village — to share American culture

First Luoyang Middle School Winter Academy launches with help from volunteers across campus.

First Luoyang Middle School Winter Academy launches with help from volunteers across campus

Students from a middle school in Luoyang, China, were immersed in all things UW-La Crosse during a visit spring semester. Printmaking, wall climbing, engineering a sailboat, and understanding insects’ influence on culture were among the many stops during the students’ visit Feb. 10-22. UWL faculty, staff and students volunteered to lead activities, teach and spend time with the group.

A UWL student holds a plate that is etched in front of a Chinese middle school student who is looking at the design.

Art Professor Joel Elgin and his students demonstrated printmaking and gave middle school students from Luoyang an opportunity to make their own prints. Here one of Elgin’s students is pictured working with a middle school student.

Every winter middle school students from Luoyang, China, visit La Crosse to learn about American culture and English language. La Crosse and Luoyang have a more than 20-year sister city partnership.

However, for the first time this year, Continuing Education and Extension offered the Luoyang Middle School Winter Academy, to foster culture experiences and English language learning through numerous interactions with UWL faculty, staff and students. A total of 20 students from Luoyang Foreign Language School #2, a boarding school in Luoyang, China, participated in the immersion program. Marcie Wycoff-Horn, dean of UWL’s School of Education, Professional and Continuing Education, initiated the program.

Chinese middle school student climbs on a climbing wall.

TJ Mickschl, Strength Centers, and UWL students provided instruction on wall climbing. This activity assisted with community building and offered an opportunity to practice new English terms in a safe environment.

One of Chinese students’ favorite parts of the trip was staying with U.S. host families, made up of UWL faculty and staff. They shared card games, ping pong matches, movies, ice skating and sledding. During the trip, the Chinese students saw daily life in America. They were most surprised by the friendly clerks at the grocery store checkout, the low volume of traffic on city streets, sweet breakfast food and the lack of shoes inside American houses.

Christine Hippert, associate professor of Archaeology and Anthropology, and her family hosted a student because they know what it is like to be strangers in a foreign country. During the 2014-15 school year, Hippert and her sons lived in the Dominican Republic while she was on sabbatical. Her sons attended school and knew how difficult it was to acclimate to a different culture, make friends and learn a language. “We all thought our experiences abroad might help us with helping another student adjust to life here in La Crosse,” she says.

Hippert says her family benefited immensely from the experience. “It showed us, again, that our way of doing things here is just one way of living,” she says. “We made a wonderful friend and my kids learned more about rich cultural traditions, beliefs, and practices from the perspective of a child who was close to their age, which has more impact than learning from an adult!”

Image of Chinese middle school students sitting in a classroom.

In addition to learning English, Chinese students met UWL faculty who shared their disciplines from art to math and biology.

Dena Huisman, associate professor of Communication Studies, taught the Luoyang students communication techniques. Heather Linville, Educational Studies, coordinated a group of ESL students to work with the Luoyang students. Those students included: Emily Scharenbroch, Wesley Quintana, Amber Kreis, Amy Hopfensperger, Danielle Pratt and Yuyan Chen.

Barrett Klein showing students insects.

Barrett Klein, associate professor of biology, gave a tour of the Pupating Lab, and a PowerPoint presentation and discussion on insects and culture.

Chinese middle school student, Chen Chongyu, who went by the nickname “Candy” during her visit, says the insect and culture lessons with Barrett Klein, associate professor of biology, was one of her favorite parts. “My host family was very nice and the classes were very interesting!” she says.

Lynn Weiland, assistant director, and Milandrie Wakim, program manager in the office of Continuing Education and Extension, planned and coordinated the program.

Thanks to families who hosted students:

  • Melissa and Robert Bingham
  • Colin and Erin Belby
  • Aaron and Kristin Koepke
  • Peter Stovall and Christine Hippert
  • Troy and Jaralee Richter
  • Leslie and Kristian Andrew Rogers
  • Ronda and Matt Leahy
  • Alex and Jill O’Brien
  • Brenda Leahy and Michael Slevin
  • Ashley and Robert Cree
  • Jen and Tom Miskowski
  • Jim and Sarah Carlson
  • Jan Von Ruden and Bill Allen
  • Adrienne and Stanton Loh
  • Aaron and Melissa Nielsen
  • David and Christine Reineke
  • Laurie Cooper Stoll and Charles Stoll
  • Scott and Tina Johns
  • Patrick and Lila Barlow

Other faculty and staff involved throughout the two weeks, providing classroom opportunities and experiences for Luoyang students included:

  • Adrienne Loh, School of Education, provided the ideas for bowling, a city bus trip, an ice cream stop at The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor and picture at the Friendship Gardens. Mai Chao Duddeck, Lindsey Butts, Ashley Cree, Brea Grace and Jill Kirkpatrick, all School of Education, also helped with bowling.
  • Josh Hertel, Mathematics and Statistics, and Mike Haupert, Economics, sponsored a Family Game Night for host families and their host students.
  • Michelle Bryant, owner of the Coulee Region Chill, provided more than 60 free tickets for host families and students.
  • Dawn Hays, director of the Campus Child Center, provided the opportunity for the Luoyang students to spend time with UWL students at the Campus Child Center and to interact with young children on the playground.
  • Jennifer Terpstra, Art, and her advanced painting students shared their work; UWL student Bekah Kienzle gave a painting demonstration and Luoyang students created encaustic monotypes.
  • Mark Guthrie, Athletics, provided free, UWL Men’s Basketball tickets for all Luoyang students and a $4 ticket for all hosting family members.
  • Brenda Leahy, Career Services, provided a tour of the UWL job fair in the Student Union.
  • Stefan Smith, Murphy Library, gave a tour and shared research skills.
  • Peg Maher, Biology, gave a presentation on nutrition with hands-on activities and an “inner body” DVD presentation.
  • Scott Cooper, Biology and director of Undergraduate Research, gave a tour of Cowley Hall science labs and presented on his team’s research.
  • Heidi Masters, Educational Studies, led a science lab with engineering skills where students created their own sailboats and then calculated their racing time.
  • Melissa Collum, Educational Studies, integrated her UWL students with the Luoyang students and her global education curriculum in the Global Education Learning Lab.
  • Jenni McCool, Mathematics and Statistics, tied math education activities into the Olympics.
  • Diane Sasaki, International Education and Engagement, led a UWL IEE scavenger hunt within the Hall of Nations. Then, Emelee Volden, International Education and Engagement, addressed the group during a campus luncheon.