Nashua Catholic Junior High students visit China

Courtesy photo Students spend their last day exploring the major attractions and beautiful sites of Shanghai.

NASHUA – On Nov. 3, 11 students, a teacher, a principal and a parent chaperone from Nashua Catholic Regional Junior High School embarked on the trip of a lifetime that would forever change their outlooks on education around the world.

This group traveled to China with the intent of learning about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs in China compared to the program in Nashua, but in turn learned so much more. Students were able to learn about China’s history, their culture and their schools.

In 10 days, the group traveled more than 16,000 miles around China. Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester Superintendent of Catholic Schools David Thibault accompanied them.

On Nov.5, the group arrived in Chengdu, China for a city tour. They explored major attractions in the city, shopped at local stores and got their first taste of authentic Sichuan foods. They spent the next day at the top middle school affiliated to Sichuan Normal University, Tianfu Number 1 Middle School.

The day began with a Sister School Signature Ceremony, during which Tianfu Number 1 Middle School became recognized as a sister school of NCRJHS.

Glenda McFadden serves as principal of the Nashua school. She said they first started working to have students from China attend summer camps in New Hampshire. McFadden said she hopes to have students from the school come to NCRJHS in the future.

Scott Maxwell, a computer teacher at the Nashua school, taught the Tianfu students how to create a 3D house design. After this, students from the Nashua school watched a presentation from a local professor. They also were able to attend Chinese culture classes.

Meanwhile, the adults attended a principal forum, during which McFadden presented about running a blue-ribbon school. A blue-ribbon school recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Two days later, the group flew to Shanghai and then traveled to Jiaxing’s Nanhu District. On Nov. 9, the group met with students and teachers from Nanhu School, which is affiliated with Beijing Normal University. Students were then able to tour Jiaxing and then Hangzhou. The students had their final events at the Nanhu School on Nov. 11. The Nanhu School is also a sister school to the Nashua institution. On Nov. 12, they were able to finish up their trip by touring Shanghai. They left China on Nov. 13.

Students told The Telegraph they noticed a lot of differences while they were in the schools in China. The first thing students noticed was the duration of the school day. One student said school days tend to be from 7:40 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. in Cheng Du. The day, however, is a lot more broken up. One student said Chengdu students would go to sports practices in the middle of the day. Another student said he saw how competitive schooling is in China. The student said in China, the high school you attend ultimately determines your future. If you get into a good high school, you will get into a good college and therefore get a good job.

The student said this is why the Chinese find it so important to bond with international schools. They are willing to make sacrifices and send their children to international schools if it means the students will have a prosperous future, he said.

“What is your dream?” was a phrase Nashua students said they heard in the classrooms in China constantly.

One student said she believed the classes in China were more regimented, where in her classes they were able to learn the curriculum and interpret it in different ways.

Overall, McFadden said the trip was a success.

“I love that the kids got a world view of education. I think it’s important,” McFadden said. “It will change how they see the world.”

Maxwell was along similar lines. “You go in hearing certain things about other countries and then you go in and experience things for yourself. It was an experience the kids will never forget. Everything was an educational experience.”

Grace Pecci can be reached at 594-1243, or at gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.