Students on field study in China

A group of 14 students is taking part in the Field Studies in China course taught by Dr. Jennifer Pomeroy and Dr. George Pomeroy of the geography/earth science department.

They arrived at East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai on June 12. During their 20-day stay, they will take part in Chinese language and culture classes and participate in sightseeing excursions in various Chinese cities, including Shanghai, Hangzhou, Xian, and Beijing. Twelve Chambersburg Area School District teachers are on the trip and the group will also visit Shijiazhuang No. 25 High School, a CASD sister-school. 

Dr. Amy Diehl, the university’s director of systems and applications, and Vincent Rink, a junior Spanish major, will provide blog updates about the trip. Earlier blogs are here.

Posted July 1, 2014

Written by Dr. Amy Diehl

We have arrived at our final destination – Beijing! It was a quick 1½ hour train ride from Shijiazhaung. In Beijing, we visited many sites including Tiananmen Square, Chairman Mao Zedong’s mausoleum, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall of China.

Tiananmen Square is the site of the 1989 demonstrations and subsequent massacre of peaceful protestors (students, intellectuals and labor activists), but there is no recognition of that here. Security is tight in both the square and mausoleum. There is a fence surrounding the large square and there are security checkpoints in order to enter. 

There is a large picture of Chairman Mao Zedong on the Tiananmen (The Heavenly Peace Tower). Chairman Mao stood on the Tiananmen on Oct. 1, 1949, and proclaimed that “Chinese people have since risen!” He used two slogans as part of his proclaiming speech while the Chinese Liberation Army processed through on the People’s Square, which is also known as Tiananmen Square. The two slogans are printed on the Tiananmen. The left one translates to “Long live the Peoples Republic of China!” and the right slogan translates to “Long live the World’s People United!”


Tiananmen – Chairman Mao is in the center.

There is an additional checkpoint to enter the Chairman Mao’s mausoleum. Passports are required for identification, bags are passed through scanners, and officers pat down everyone who enters. Individuals leave flowers for Chairman Mao upon entry to the mausoleum. The line then moves quickly past the body of Chairman Mao. He was lying in his crystal-encased coffin with only his head exposed. There is a debate over whether it is real body or a wax replica. My vote goes to wax replica. The head looked too good to be almost 40 years past his death. However, the Chinese government says it is the real thing.


Chairman Mao memorabilia for sale in Tiananmen Square


Dr. Amy Diehl, Vincent Rink, Dr. George Pomeroy, Dr. Jennifer Pomeroy in Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square is adjacent to the Forbidden City, which was home to 24 emperors in the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1406 to 1911. It is rectangular in shape with a total area of 177 acres. The Forbidden City is surrounded by 10-meter-high walls and a 52-meter-wide moat. Construction took 15 years with 100,000 skilled technicians and millions of laborers. There are 8,700 rooms in the city used for various purposes. For example, the empress used one hall to receive gifts on her birthday.


Touring the Forbidden City


Overlooking Forbidden City (notice the haze)

Air quality in Beijing is not good. On our first day in Beijing, the air pollution index was 204 – “heavily polluted.” For comparison, a count of 40 is considered high in Pennsylvania. The air pollution manifests as a thick haze covering the entire city. Many of us noticed that we had scratchy throats. I ended up with a mild cold and I sneezed quite a bit while outdoors because the air was so irritating to my sinuses. I will never take the clean air in PA for granted again!

In Beijing, we also visited the Summer Palace — which is 720 acres of lakes, gardens and palaces in Beijing. It was beautiful and much cooler than the Forbidden City. I can see why Empress Dowager Cixi chose to come to this place in the late 1800s during the heat of the Beijing summers. Even with the many trees, several of us walked around with umbrellas, as many Chinese women do, to protect our skin from the sun.


Ship students walk through the Summer Palace

On our last full day in Beijing, we took a two-hour bus ride to the Great Wall in Mutianya. This section of the wall was first constructed using granite in the mid-6th century. It is older than the more frequently visited Badaling section. The Mutianya section was rebuilt in 1569 and most parts of this section are well-preserved today. 

We climbed about 1,000 steps to access the wall in about 90-degree heat. Fortunately the hike up the steps was shaded as it surrounded by a forest, which looked much like the woods of south-central PA. The view at the top was amazing! We visited three watchtowers on the wall. Because the wall is on the top of a mountain, it was not flat at all like a city wall would be. I was surprised by just how many steps were built into the path along the top of the wall which helped with navigating the steeper slopes.


Dr. Jennifer Pomeroy and Dr. Amy Diehl on the Great Wall

The Great Wall was the perfect end to our wonderful trip to China. Dr. Jennifer Pomeroy and Dr. George Pomeroy have been excellent teachers and tour guides.

This trip has stretched me and the students who participated and helped us all to develop cross-cultural competence. We learned new ways to eat (many new foods served family style eaten with chopsticks). We learned how to navigate beyond-crowded subways. We learned to not be scared of seemingly chaotic driving patterns. We learned how to navigate lines in China (the Chinese tend not to defer to others in line before them.) 

We learned about different religions (primary Buddhism). We experienced the effects of governmental control over the Internet (no Facebook, Twitter, Google, or Wordpress). We understand differences between a collective society (China) and an individualistic society (USA). And best of all we made many new friends at East China Normal University and Shijiazhuang No. 25 School.

China is truly a beautiful country with beautiful people. I leave China with the hope of returning someday. 

Posted June 27, 2014

Written by Dr. Amy Diehl
The group visited several schools in the city of Shijiazhuang, including No. 25 High School which is a sister-school to the Chambersburg Area School District. This school was founded in 1984 and contains middle school, high school and international education. The school’s focus is foreign language education.

It has 2,800 students and 200 staff. Students are selected to attend this school and they may reside at the school if they are not from the local area. During this coming Fall, 25 Shijiazhuang high school students will study in the Chambersburg school district for six weeks.

Dr. George Pomeroy in front of Shijiazhuang No. 25 School
Dr. George Pomeroy and Dr. Jennifer Pomeroy present Shijiazhuang Dr. Youban Yang with a Ship T-shirt

The Chambersburg teachers on the trip were matched with classes of similar grade level and subject area to what they teach. The kindergarten and elementary school teachers traveled to nearby Shijiazhuang kindergarten and elementary schools for their visit.

The administrators and teachers in Shijiazhuang welcomed us with open arms and presented us with gifts and flowers upon our arrival. We were followed everywhere during the visit and felt like true celebrities. The Chambersburg teachers had a chance to both observe classroom instruction and to teach the students brief lessons.

Shijiazhuang kindergarten students teach a dance to Chambersburg kindergarten teacher Catherine Foreman

I went to middle school history and geography classes with Wes Foltz, Chambersburg Magnet School social studies teacher. At the beginning of both classes, students stood up as a display of respect for the teacher. In the history class, there were 65 students in a classroom that was no larger than a typical American classroom for 30 students.

The history seemed to be based on memorization. The teacher lectured and wrote on the board. The students recited many things out loud as a group. In addition, the teacher taught the students new Chinese characters related to the concepts they were learning. To reinforce the character recognition, the students used their right index finger to draw the character in the air.

Wes was given about 10 minutes at the end of class for a brief lesson about Pennsylvania geography. We handed out folded Pennsylvania road maps. Wes taught the students how to fold the map and then had a contest to see who could fold it most quickly, which the students really enjoyed. Then Wes had the students locate Chambersburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg on the map.

The geography class was a bit different. The geography teacher lectured briefly and then had the students work on some questions on a worksheet. Then the students were instructed to work together collaboratively in groups of four to discuss their answers to worksheet questions. I found this style to be more typical of an American classroom. Wes then taught the geography students about Pennsylvania geography.

Chambersburg Magnet School Social Studies teacher Wes Foltz gives a Pennsylvania geography lesson to middle school students (with Shijiazuang English teacher Panjié acting as translator)

In the middle school classrooms, every student sits up straight. There is no slouching. The Chinese believe that students must sit straight in order to focus their attention on learning, although we did notice some students napping on their desks as we walked past other classrooms. Students all wear the same school uniform — a shirt and pants. They also have a jacket that can be worn over their shirt.

The saying on student uniform translates to “Study assiduously, behave kindly.”

Dr. Amy Diehl with a middle school student

After the classroom visit, the Chambersburg teachers had the chance for informal discussion with Shijiazhuang teachers to share ideas. At the end of our visit, our entire group met with Shijiazhuang school administrators, led by Dr. Youbin Yang, school principal, to ask questions of each other and share our impressions. Shijiazhuang school also treated us to a visit to the Longxing Temple (a Buddhist monastery) and a special banquet with school administrators. It was a wonderful day with many new friendships formed, differing perspectives shared, and collaboration opportunities begun.
The entire delegation – representatives from Shijiazhuang High School No. 25, Shippensburg University, Chambersburg Area School District, and Trinity High School