Contact: John Scarffe, KU Endowment Association, (785) 832-7336

Freeman Foundation pledges $387K for K-12 teacher education at KU

LAWRENCE - Thanks to a privately funded program at the University of Kansas, Garden City High School history and sociology teacher David Ermish started the school year with lots of enthusiasm.

Fresh from a summer trip to East Asia, Ermish also took into his classrooms a replica sculpture of an ancient Chinese soldier, new ways to teach about the region and a plan to take his students on a cultural field trip to China.

Now more teachers will have the opportunity to participate in the same program, the Kansas Consortium for Teaching About Asia. The Freeman Foundation has pledged $387,120 to the Kansas University Endowment Association to continue the program for two years and establish an exchange program for Kansas and Chinese teachers. The latest commitments bring the foundation's total support for KU teacher education programs to $785,430 since 2001.

Coordinated through the KU Center for East Asian Studies, the Kansas Consortium program prepares elementary- and secondary-school educators from Kansas and western Missouri to teach the history and cultures of East Asia. The program includes an eight-week, two-credit course offered at cities including Manhattan, Overland Park and Lawrence each spring and summer and a three-week trip to East Asia in the summer.

“ By far, the most important thing I learned in the program was how to teach about East Asia,” said Ermish, who commuted more than four hours each way for the program last spring. “The class taught me what was important out of all that history and how to make connections between the United States and the cultures and commerce of East Asia.”

Ermish's participation in the program's study trip to China and Japan in June was his first opportunity to travel outside of the United States. While he was in China, he and a fellow teacher purchased and shipped to Garden City two large terra-cotta replicas of warrior sculptures from the second century B.C. found in the tomb of the first Qin Dynasty emperor, Qin Shihuangdi.

The 3-foot-high kneeling archer is a three-quarter-size reproduction of one of more than 7,400 figures archaeologists excavated in the 1970s. Ermish said he wants to build a display case so he can take the archer to school to use as a teaching device.

“It's something more than a picture,” he said. “Students can see that the figures are lifelike and individual.”

William Tsutsui, KU professor of history and director of the Kansas Consortium, said Ermish is one of 150 graduates of the Kansas program, established five years ago. The program is conducted at 20 universities nationwide under the umbrella of the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia.

“ The goal of this program is to make a permanent place for East Asia in schools,” Tsutusi said. “It's a bottom-up approach that goes right to the teachers to get them excited about the material.”

The Freeman Foundation's funding of an exchange program gives Kansas teachers the opportunity to work in schools in China, while Chinese teachers can come to Kansas to teach, Tsutsui said.

“ We're building connections between classrooms and countries,” Tsutsui said.

Ermish said the experience of going abroad made such an impression that he is organizing a trip for his own students.
“ This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Ermish said. “Now I want to take students to China for a cultural and historical trip to see Beijing, the Great Wall and the warriors.”

The Freeman Foundation is a philanthropic organization that provides grants to foster connections between the United States and countries in East Asia. The foundation's contributions, including a previously announced $2 million grant for a undergraduate programs in Asian studies, count toward the goal of KU First: Invest in Excellence, the largest fund-raising campaign in KU history. KU Endowment is conducting KU First on behalf of KU through 2004 to raise in excess of $600 million for scholarships, fellowships, professorships, capital projects and program support. KU Endowment serves as the independent, nonprofit fund-raising and fund-management organization for KU.


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