A trip to China produced more than memories, snapshots and souvenirs for Joanna Barnette, a history teacher from Lewis County High School. It launched lesson plans.
Barnette was one of 17 public school teachers from the state who participated in the trip through West Virginia University’s Faculty and Course Development in International Studies.
“This program provides an opportunity that is unmatched for teachers,” said Jack Hammersmith, a WVU history professor and director of FACDIS, who led the China tour. “It allows them to take back first hand information to their students. They can say ‘I touched this’ and ‘I saw this.’ “
With a theme of China: Yesterday’s Memories, Tomorrow’s Challenge, tours took the teachers to historical sites like the Great Wall and the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and to Shanghai, a modern, urban area. Barnette, who hadn’t been out of the U.S. except for Canada, called the experience “life-changing, amazing.
“The people in FACDIS are so well organized, warm and loving—I fell in love with the program,” she said. “Seeing the people and culture (in China) was life-changing. I’ll never take things like freedom of the press and freedom of speech for granted now.”
She said one of the most memorable parts of her trip was seeing the Great Wall and touching such a powerful piece of ancient history. Seeing the Temple of Heaven was also very moving, she said.
“The Temple of Heaven brought me to tears,” she said. “It was such an incredible, spiritual place.”
The trip spawned ideas that Barnette will use in her classroom, such as a reflection on President Nixon’s historic visits to China in the 1970s, the country’s Cultural Revolution and its rise to become a global economic leader.
“The development in China happened so quickly, I want my students to explore what they think is in the future for China,” she said. “It happened so fast you have to wonder if it’s stable.”
The participants this year ranged from an elementary school art teacher to high school music and social studies teachers. The goal of the program is for teachers to gain international insight and pass the experience and information along to their students in any form they choose.
“We provide an important service which reaches into classrooms statewide,” Hammersmith said.
Hammersmith said recent FACDIS sponsored trips have included study experiences in Northern Italy and Venezuela. He thought China was a good idea for this year’s trip because of the influence China has in today’s global economy.
“No one denies that China today is an up and coming country that is a key to the future,” he said.
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