Published July 27, 2017
Many teachers in New York State are required to teach about the history and culture of China, but very few have any significant background in China studies.
But thanks to UB’s Confucius Institute, 19 K-12 teachers now have some help in the classroom after recently spending a week immersed in the Asian country.
The teachers — 18 from public, private and charter schools in the Buffalo area, and one from Norwalk, Conn. — attended “Understanding China,” a seminar hosted by the Confucius Institute and organized in conjunction with the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia. Co-sponsors were the Five College Center for East Asian Studies and the Buffalo Teacher Resource Center.
Major funding was provided by the Freeman Foundation and Hanban/Confucius Institute headquarters.
UB’s Confucius Institute, established in 2009, supports China-related research and artistic production at UB, Chinese language teaching at the university and in local schools, and cultural events that foster a better understanding of Chinese traditions and contemporary culture throughout Western New York.
It is part of a network of more than 500 such institutes around the world. Last December, it was named “Confucius Institute of the Year” at the annual Confucius Institute Global Conference in Kunming, China.
The “Understanding China” seminar, held June 26-30, provided teachers with content and resources so they can more effectively teach about Chinese history and culture. In addition to receiving a wealth of textbooks and teaching materials about China, participants attended presentations on Chinese history, geography, religion, literature, language, music and art given by university faculty and other specialists.
Lecturers included UB faculty members Kristin Stapleton (history), Yan Liu (history) and Nicolas Bommarito (philosophy); Confucius Institute Associate Director Maggie Lu (language); Buffalo State College professor Stephen Vermette (geography); Binghamton University professor Nick Kaldis (literature and film); Alfred University professor Zhongbei Wu (music); Erin Markle, president of Gold Summit Martial Arts; and independent scholars Herbert Batt (literature) and Jean Jain (art).
As part of their attendance, seminar participants are required prepare an implementation plan demonstrating how they will use information and resources from the seminar in their classes, and then implement the plan in the coming school year.
Participants found the seminar to be a valuable experience.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘Understanding China’ seminar and learned so much in a short time,” says Paula Fortuna, a high school world literature teacher at the Center for Global Studies in Norwalk. “Each professor’s robust knowledge and ability to share fascinating stories and facts about China inspired me, and the information will definitely enrich my curriculum and practice.
“The Confucius Institute was exceedingly generous in providing us with so many great books and reference pages that I will bring back to my school and share with my students and colleagues for years to come,” Fortuna says.
Mark Dodge, a social studies teacher at East High School in Buffalo, sums up his experience: “I was amazed by the variety and richness of the resources provided. The course covered everything from science and medicine to painting and poetry. I would have titled it ‘1,000 ways to insert China into your classroom.’”