BY EMILY CHAIET
Members of the community were immersed in the Chinese culture at the Confucius Institute ribbon cutting ceremony at Cypress Bay High School on Dec 17. The event featured food, music Chinese lion dancing, and a tour of the Confucius Room. The Confucius Room is a resource room open to students. It contains Chinese textbooks, periodicals and a large screen TV which will be used for presentations.
“The room is really Zen-like and beautiful,” said assistant principal Marianela Estripeaut, who planned the ribbon cutting ceremony. “It’s got typical red colors and a nice divider. I just find it to be a nice cozy room that is very beautiful for anyone in the community to enjoy.”
The Confucius Institute is a joint project between Broward County Public Schools, the College Board and the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. Broward County is one of five U.S. counties that contain a Confucius Institute. There are other local Confucius Institutes open in Fort Lauderdale High School, Pompano Beach High School, Sanders Park Elementary, Tradewinds Elementary, Crystal Lake Middle School and Parkway Middle School.
“We are proud to provide our students with the opportunity to participate in the Confucius Institute of Broward County Public Schools,” Superintendent Robert W. Runcie said. “By exposing our students to this rigorous and robust language program, we are preparing our students to compete in a global economy after graduation.”
The purpose of the Confucius Institute is to promote Chinese culture and language in schools. The Confucius Institute director of Broward County, Bob McKinney, is looking to expand this program to other high schools and middle schools and into elementary schools across the district. He said learning the Chinese culture is beneficial to students.
“The world is a much smaller place. If today’s students are going to compete for the good jobs it is a global marketplace, their competition is not sitting next to them in a classroom at Cypress Bay or Western,” Mr. McKinney said. “Their competition is sitting next to them in a high school in Beijing, in Helsinki or in Berlin. In order to be successful you will have to have knowledge on a global level.”
Cypress Bay applied for a grant through the College Board in connection with the Confucius Institute from China, and got the grant for the Confucius program last year. The grant had non-negotiables, and one of the non-negotiables included having a room designated for the Chinese community. Principal Scott Neely’s visit to China was also one of the reasons the Confucius Institute was added to Cypress Bay.
“Because of our population and diversity in South Florida and for them sending myself and Brad Mattair, the principal of Parkway Middle School, to China to work with the institute a couple years ago, they chose us and they chose a school with great diversity and the amount of children who want to learn. There’s no other school like Cypress Bay,” Mr. Neely said.
Mr. Neely was sent to China by the Confucius Institute to visit schools during the 2012-2013 school year.
“They sent us all around China to all of their different provinces starting with Beijing,” Mr. Neely said. “We saw different types of schools in the different provinces. They took us to all of these specialty schools and each place was totally different.”
For now, the room will only be open to students taking Chinese in order to see how the staff and students react to it. The students in Chinese class can use the tools to aid their learning and for independent study. The students in AP Chinese will use the room for telecommunicating with other schools that have a Confucius Institute. If the institute is a success with the students, more classes will be able to be a part of it.
The opening ceremony included a tour of the room along with many aspects of Chinese culture. There were Chinese-influenced performances, food and music. Students from Broward County Schools with Confucius programs performed at the ceremony. The Cypress Bay students performed songs and skits.
“Performing was a little nerve-wracking because it was a lot of people. We practiced a lot though, so we felt confident,” junior Malvin Torrens said.
Torrens performed a skit called “Old Couple Goes Shopping” with his classmates. The skit was an assignment in Chinese class last year.
“Last year, since we had an assignment had to make a skit, our teacher told us she would pick one skit to be performed at the ceremony,” Torrens said. “Our skit was chosen and we were really happy. We practiced more and added more to it.”
As a student in Chinese class, Torrens is looking forward to using the resources in the Confucius Room.
“I’m really excited to use the room to learn more about Chinese culture and experiencing more on a secondhand level further on from the classroom experience,” he said.
The Confucius Room features an abundance of information and Chinese culture for all students in Chinese.
“It’s sort of like a mini library,” Ms. Estripeaut said. “For any student that is studying the Chinese culture or the Chinese language, it’s a wealth of information because all of the current information from China will be there.”