Preschoolers at Stone House, the Ruth Hoeflin Early Education Center on the Kansas State University campus, became pen pals of sorts with preschoolers in China. But since most 3- to 5-year-olds can't write letters, they exchanged art.
The project sprang from K-State's LuAnn Hoover, instructor of family studies and human services, and Bronwyn Fees, associate professor of family studies and human services, after their visit to the affiliated kindergarten at South China Normal University in Guangzhou, China, in 2009.
At a conference in Guangzhou, Fees and Hoover spoke on developing creative thinking and developmentally appropriate practices in early care and education in the United States. They also spent a day observing a class of 3-year-olds.
To foster a relationship between the university programs, the K-State professors and the Chinese professors decided on a children's art exchange.
"We saw this as an excellent opportunity for the K-State students in the early childhood professional teacher education program to see the development stages of children in their drawings, and see how children understand their environments in the states and in China," Hoover said.
"Understanding and appreciating diverse cultures is a professional standard in teaching education; what better way to learn than through children's eyes?" Fees said. "All children represent their thinking through their drawings. Children in China are no different than the children in the U.S. in this respect."
Xiao Xiao, an undergraduate student from South China Normal University, transcribed the Kansas children's descriptions of their drawings into Chinese for the Chinese teachers and children to read.
Fees said similarities include the sun in the top corners of the page, green grass, rainbows and smiling faces. The affiliated program in China has an artist in residence to help the 5-year-olds, she said.
The project was partially funded by a Tilford Grant.
CHINESE EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHERS TO VISIT K-STATE, FLINT HILLS
Kansas State University's Bronwyn Fees is determined to plant Kansas in the hearts and minds of Chinese preschoolers. How? By putting on a show for 24 early childhood teachers and faculty at South China Normal University from China.
The teachers arrive on Friday, Oct. 29, and will experience Stone House Early Childhood Education Center on campus, kindergarten classrooms at Amanda Arnold Elementary School and Head Start in Manhattan and a special seminar featuring K-State professors.
Fees' agenda encompasses more than academia in the heart of America.
The teachers will visit a ranch, dine at historic Hayes House in Council Grove, lunch at the Union, dine at the historic Pizza Hut in Aggieville and tour a mall, a grocery store and a "typical American home."
"When a group of us went to China, we were taken to a Chinese home," said Fees, associate professor in family studies and human services.
She and LuAnn Hoover, instructor in family studies and human services, have been planning the cross-cultural visit since they visited China in 2009. They were invited to speak at the first Sino-American conference on early childhood education in Guangzhou, hosted by South China Normal.
This summer, Fees returned to conduct research on home environments for motor development of pre-school children with Dr. Fuming Zheng, early childhood education professor from the university. She spoke at the 2010 Child and Family Conference on raising a healthy child at Beijing Normal University at Zhuhai.
While in China, she also visited kindergartens at South China Normal in Guangzhou and Zhuhai and met with staff at the Harvard China Educational Institute in Beijing.
The October exchange will feature a presentation on Early Childhood Education and Families in China by Zheng and two directors from the kindergarten affiliated with South China Normal on Monday, Nov. 1.
"The teachers will attend a seminar where our faculty will cover topics such as developmentally appropriate practices during early childhood and exceptional behaviors and autism," Fees said. "But we want them to get a feel for the state, too. This will be the first trip to the United States for most of them."
They will be offered a glimpse of Flint Hills ranch life at Dean Virginia and Tom Moxley's place in Morris County: an historic ranch house, cutting horse demonstration, horseback rides and information on grassland management.
The Nov. 1 presentation will be 1 to 3 p.m. in the Little Theatre at the K-State Union. It is open to the K-State community and sponsored by family studies and human services. A reception will follow.
The group leaves Kansas on Tuesday, Nov. 2.