July 26, 2004

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Contact: Nancy Hope, Center for East Asian Studies, (785) 864-3918.

Hot ticket: 22 Kansas teachers visit China, Japan through KU program

LAWRENCE -- Twenty-two K-12 teachers from throughout Kansas discovered on a three-week trip to China and Japan in June that Kansas doesn't have a corner on sweltering heat and humidity.

Temperatures soared to 103 degrees as the Kansas teachers explored cultural and historical sites on an educational trip funded by the Freeman Foundation of New York and Stowe, Vt., and organized by the University of Kansas Center for East Asian Studies.

The travel was part of a program under the auspices of the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia. Nancy Hope, associate director of the Kansas Consortium for Teaching about Asia at KU, and her assistant, Randi Hacker, outreach coordinator for the KU Center for East Asian Studies, led the tour. The trip provided personal experiences that will enable the 22 participants to teach better about these East Asian cultures in their classrooms.

The three-week odyssey took the teachers through four cities in China -- Beijing, Xian, Pingyao and Shanghai -- and two in Japan -- Tokyo and Kyoto.

In Beijing the teachers did not let high temperatures and humidity deter them from a walk across Tiananmen Square or through the imperial Forbidden City, home to emperors from the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) through the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). "Nor did they allow the heat and humidity to prevent them from climbing the ancient and uneven stone steps of the Great Wall for a panoramic view of this ancient feat of engineering and the countryside around it," Hope said.

In Pingyao, established in the ninth century B.C., the Kansas teachers observed a thriving, living Chinese city where daily life still is lived in much the same way it has been lived for hundreds of years.

At a rural elementary school in a mountain village about two hours outside Xian, schoolchildren greeted the visiting teachers by waving flags and playing drums and horns. The Xian Sister City Association of Kansas City, Mo., sponsors the school. The Kansas teachers brought gifts from their schools including a Tonganoxie sweatshirt, pencils, books and even basketballs.

Food on the trip ran the gamut from the exotic (duck brains and fish stomach) to the sublime (12 kinds of dumplings). The teachers gamely tried just about everything.

In Japan, a Buddhist monk-in-training gave the teachers a lesson in meditation at the Tokufu-ji Zen Buddhist Temple in Kyoto. "Some fell asleep; it was that peaceful," Hope said. Before the meditation lesson, the head abbott, Keido Fukushima, invited the teachers to lunch with him at the temple. Later that day, they walked through Kyoto's ancient geisha district to get a sense of what the city was like before the age of high-rises and 24-hour convenience stores. They also visited sites in Tokyo.

Each of the 22 teachers is an alumnus of the East Asia Institute for Teachers, a two-credit course run by the Kansas Consortium for Teaching about Asia. KU faculty and staff and guest lecturers conduct the course, offered twice yearly in spring and summer. The intensive course in East Asian culture and history gives K-12 teachers from Kansas and western Missouri materials to incorporate East Asian content into their lessons in all curriculum areas. Educators receive a $500 stipend for participating and their schools receive a $300 mini-grant to purchase materials about East Asia.

The Kansas teachers who traveled to China and Japan and their schools, grades and hometowns are:

GARDEN CITY-- Garden City High School
Dave Ermish, 10th to 11th, world history; Garden City
Steve Germes, 11th to 12th, history and sociology; Lakin

HOLTON -- Holton Central Elementary School
Linda Day, fifth; Holton

JUNCTION CITY -- Junction City Middle School
Anneliece Kowalik, sixth to eighth, world geography; Junction City

LANSING -- Lansing High School
Catherine Smith, art; Leavenworth

LAWRENCE
Southwest Junior High
Danielle Lotton-Barker, seventh to ninth, gifted; Lawrence

Free State High School
Debra Denson, 10th to 12th, gifted; Lawrence

Lawrence Teach Co-op
Kathy Nace, all grades; Lawrence

Hillcrest Elementary School
Katie Becker, 6th; Lawrence
Melissa Stucky, second to sixth, gifted; Lawrence

Lawrence High School
Michael Ortmann, 10th to 12th, world history; Roeland Park

OLATHE -- Frontier Trail Junior High
Maureen Donegan, social studies coordinator; Olathe

OVERLAND PARK
Overland Trail Middle School
Beth Rieke, seventh, world geography; Overland Park
Patricia Stratton, seventh, world geography; Shawnee Mission

Shawnee Mission South High School
Deirdre Leahy, ninth and 10th, world geography and history; Salina

PRAIRIE VILLAGE -- Somerset Elementary and Corinth Elementary School
Kristin Lee, fourth to sixth, gifted; Overland Park

TECUMSEH -- Shawnee Heights Middle School
Marianna Nothern, seventh to eighth, art, multicultural awareness; Topeka

TONGANOXIE -- Tonganoxie Junior High School
Barbara Denton, art; Lawrence
John Korb, seventh, world geography; Tonganoxie

TOPEKA -- Tallgrass Learning Center
Genevieve Hagerman, kindergarten to 12th, social studies; Topeka

VALLEY FALLS -- Valley Falls Public School System
Jennifer Dixon-Perkins, fourth to 12th, art; Oskaloosa

WESTMORELAND -- Onaga Grade School
Susan Dillinger, kindergarten to fifth, reading; Westmoreland

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