Confucius Institute hosts workshop at middle school

June 4, 2015

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Three Chinese instructors from the Confucius Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville recently hosted a two-day culture workshop for eighth grade students at Platteville Middle School in Platteville.

The Confucius Institute is part of an international network of more than 1,060 Confucius Institutes and classrooms dedicated to enhancing the understanding of Chinese language and culture. The institute serves UW-Platteville as well as students, educators and community members in the tri-state area by providing outreach activities, such as seminars for educators and classes for people of all ages, including on-site Mandarin learning classes.

The Chinese instructors who conducted the workshops were Dr. Chengfa (Victor) Yu, also assistant director of the Confucius Institute; Kunqun (Kathy) Zhang; and Ran (Jennifer) Hao. Yu, Zhang and Hao are from UW-Platteville’s partner university, South-Central University for Nationalities in Wuhan, China.

Prior to the workshops, Yu sent the middle school teachers “The Story of Wang Xizhi, the Greatest Chinese Calligrapher,” to share with the students. The story, which was about a Chinese person who became a renowned calligrapher, also taught the eight basic strokes and general evolution of Chinese characters, which constitute the basis of Chinese calligraphy.

At the workshops, Yu taught the students about the history of Chinese calligraphy, emphasizing Chinese painting and Chinese language, which are closely related to Chinese calligraphy. Following, he taught the students how to correctly hold the brushes and explained the writing of the eight basic strokes. Hao demonstrated the strokes and the Chinese numbers from one to ten, then the students had the opportunity to try calligraphy for themselves.

“I am glad I was able to teach the students some basic knowledge and practical skills of Chinese calligraphy,” said Yu. “It was a great pleasure to be invited to offer these presentations about Chinese language and culture.”

Before her workshop, Kunqun (Kathy) Zhang shared a short article and movie about Chinese martial arts with the students and teachers, as it made an interesting comparison between Chinese martial arts novel and sci-fi/ fantasy. Zhang then explained the values and principles of Chinese martial arts with several minutes of clips from the movie “Gongfu Hero.” Following, she taught the students “Taiji Fan,” a traditional Chinese martial art.

“Nothing brightened my day (more) than the smiling faces and curious eyes of those students,” said Zhang. “The students were active, disciplined, polite and eager to try something new from a different culture. I had a great time with them.”

“Our eighth grade reading curriculum is centered on the objective, ‘reading to better understand the human experience,’ and we look for texts and learning opportunities that fit with this mission,” said Jay Gesin, seventh and eighth grade English and language arts instructor. “We were hoping to create a unique experience that the students would remember, and Victor, Kathy and Jennifer were so amazing in the lessons. The students were excited and engaged with each lesson. I hope we can continue to work together in the future to continue the relationship between the Confucius Institute and Platteville Middle School for increasing the cultural knowledge of students.”

“We had so much fun and really learned a lot,” said Sarah Droessler, seventh grade language arts instructor. “I greatly enjoyed the two days.”

Mei Reeder, director of the Confucius Institute, said that she was elated to learn that the culture workshops enabled the students to do more than scratch the surface of the Chinese literature because the instructors were able to incorporate the hands-on activities. “We would be delighted to continue this type of working relationship with the teachers at Platteville Middle School, as we have with other elementary, middle and high school teachers,” she said. “We hope a few of these students will even continue their learning journey when they are older, in the areas of Mandarin or study in China.”  

As UW-Platteville pursues its vision of being recognized as the leading student-focused university for its success in achieving excellence, creating opportunities and empowering each individual, it is guided by four strategic planning priorities. The culture workshops align with three of the priorities, including providing an outstanding education, fostering a community of achievement and respect and enriching the tri-state region. 

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu

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