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Chinese students get glimpse of American life at Mohawk

Science teacher Samantha Lydiard, at right,  gives middle school students from China their first taste of maple syrup on their first day of summer school at the Mohawk Trail Regional School. 
(Recorder/Diane Broncaccio)

Science teacher Samantha Lydiard, at right, gives middle school students from China their first taste of maple syrup on their first day of summer school at the Mohawk Trail Regional School. (Recorder/Diane Broncaccio)

BUCKLAND — The 21 middle-school students from Hangzhou Qinghe Middle School loved the shady sugar maples they found growing behind the Mohawk Trail Regional High School. But the taste of the maple syrup itself? Maybe not so much.

On their first day of school here, Mohawk science teacher Samantha Lydiard gave students a tour of the grounds as the students collected leaves and samples of the plants. Lydiard explained what could be made from the spearmint leaves (flavoring), the white hemlock (paper) and the maple trees.

Then she produced a jug of homemade maple syrup — made by this year’s Mohawk students from the school’s trees — and poured samples into condiment cups.

“Wow,” exclaimed one student, a look of surprise and pleasure crossing his face. Others nodded politely, staring down at the foreign substance in the cup, after their initial taste.

“It’s a little strong,” Lydiard added. “If you don’t like it, you can throw it away. That’s OK.”

This morning, the science students will make hot-air balloons. Then Thursday, they’ll make small solar ovens, to cook s’mores on. Lydiard explained that to the students that the marshmallow-chocolate Graham Cracker campfire treat “is a very important part of American culture in the summer time.”

Besides science, the students are learning more about music, Social Studies and student life from teachers Ivan Grail, Robert Storey and from Mohawk junior Sarah Malone.

“I’m a student ambassador for the summer,” Malone explained. Malone said she has participated in Mohawk music and theater programs since seventh grade and will be sharing information about music and theater with the group.

Social Studies teachers Grail and Storey are coordinating the summer program and gearing the Social Studies curriculum toward American cultural norms and student life.

In the afternoons, field trips to the Basketball Hall of Fame, Mount Sugarloaf, the Clark Art Institute and the Five-College area are planned.

Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang province, in Southern China.

Next week, a group of seven high school students will be spending four days at Mohawk.

This summer program is part of Mohawk’s effort to attract tuition-paying Chinese students to come to Mohawk for a full year during their senior year of high school. The first full-time student will be coming this fall.

Many Chinese students are now coming to US high schools as a prelude to applying to American colleges and universities.

As a Mohawk high school student in the 1980s, Principal Lynn Dole spent a summer in Japan, which she says changed the course of her life. “We’re a small community here,” she said. Bringing international students to a small school like Mohawk “provides a different kind of learning experience for us. It can open up new ideas, increase (local students’) awareness of others. Maybe they’ll want to travel some day. It opens ties and certain kinds of bonding . It also takes a bit more work to form connections, which I think helps build character as well.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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