Borough school makes sisterly connection in China

Salem School Principal Jennifer Kruge, left, and Rui Du, a Chinese intern at Salem School, video chat online with Xie Yanrong, principal of Harbin Ouzhouxinchengjingwei Primary School in China Wednesday night. The two schools are now sister schools. LARAINE WESCHLER

NAUGATUCK — The Far East just got a little bit closer to the borough as Salem School has welcomed a new sibling into the fold.

Salem School recently established a sister school in China.

The two schools will exchange language, culture, curriculum ideas, and e-mails between students, according to Salem Principal Jennifer Kruge.

“To me, being able to forge a friendship with children from another country just seemed like a marvelous way for students to learn about different cultures,” Kruge said.

She said she is also looking forward to exchanging curriculum ideas with administrators at the Harbin school.

Kruge met her Chinese counterpart, Xie Yanrong, over an online video chat at Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

“We are looking forward to a long-lasting friendship,” Kruge told Yanrong through a translator Monday night.

Chinese officials from Harbin Ouzhouxinchengjingwei Primary School said they look forward to sharing their culture and learning about the American school system.

School board Chair David Heller supported the exchange.

“It’s amazing that we can sit here in Naugatuck and speak to someone on the other side of the world, and we can do it in real time,” Heller said.

The school, in the north-eastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang, is 12 hours ahead of Naugatuck, so the conversation that took place at 8:30 p.m. locally was 8:30 a.m. the next day in China.

The exchange with the sister school came about when Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson visited China the first week of November as part of Chinese Bridge, a cross-cultural program sponsored by the non-profit College Board in conjunction with Confucius Institute in China. There was no cost to the Naugatuck Board of Education.

Tindall-Gibson joined 400 other school administrators, including 32 from New England to visit Chinese schools of all levels, he said.

Tindall-Gibson brought gifts to the sister school, including stationary and bookmarks made by Salem students, and received an engraved glass plate from the Chinese school.

Harbin school is located in the capital of its province, a city of 10 million people, Tindall-Gibson said.

According to Chinese Bridge’s information about the school, it was established in 2010 with a focus on character-building and international understanding. The school blends traditional Chinese educational models with more Western concepts.

“In a word, we hope our school to be an open, inclusive, harmonious and high quality modern school under the sense of combination of Chinese and Western,” the write-up said.

Harbin Primary School Principal Xie Yanrong talks with Salem School Principal Jennifer Kruge online at Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting. LARAINE WESCHLER

At Salem School, Chinese intern Rui Du, who is working on her teaching certificate at the University of Bridgeport, is helping to facilitate the cultural exchange. Du started interning at Salem on Monday and will be at the school for a year. However, Kruge said she hopes to continue the program long after Du leaves. She said Du’s placement at Salem was a lucky coincidence.

“It was very fortunate for us,” Kruge said.

Du will be teaching basic oral Chinese to kindergarten students. Students in all grades will exchange e-mails, with translation help from Du, and second grade teacher Debby Wilson hopes to create a movie with her tech club students to send a message in Chinese to their pen-pals in China.

“I think that would really be a great way to communicate with them,” Kruge said.