Wolf Creek Public Schools recently celebrated their new International Learning Program.
The program began with an invitation to 65 students from the Guangdong Province in China coming to Lacombe in two separate groups, with each group staying for two weeks with one week of overlap.
During their stay, students immersed their selves in Central Albertan culture and connected personally with Canadians through Wolf Creek’s homestay program, as well the student ambassador program which connected students from Lacombe Composite High School with the students from Guangdong.
Wolf Creek Superintendent Jayson Lovell said the International Learning Program is the result of student surveys of Grade 9 and 12 students.
“They said to us that they wanted opportunities to experience other cultures,” Lovell said, adding that this cultural exchange is the pathway to provide those opportunities.
The program also fulfills a memorandum of understanding which was established in 2007 by the Province of Alberta. Wolf Creek is the first school division to offer an opportunity though that earlier agreement.
“We are really proud to be the first, not only because of the significance of us being the first, but most importantly to see what we witnessed today — an opportunity for students and staff from both countries to come together and experience something pretty special,” he said.
Wolf Creek is looking to expand this program, including eventually having Canadian students in Guangdong and also looking to include half-year and full-year immersing programs.
Lovell said that are looking to send 30-35 students to China in March, where they will attend school and stay int he homes of Chinese families.
“That is really exciting as a next step,” he added.
Wolf Creek is also looking to use this first experience to encourage their current Canadian families to continue on as homestay families.
“Our goal is to have them stay in that role so when we have future groups of students coming, they will already be pre-approved, have had success and know what they getting themselves into,” he said.
So far, Lovell has enjoyed hearing about the success of the program.
“I have been getting reports from my staff and they have been amazed at the ease of which students from China and Canada have struck friendships and have really bonded,” he said. “They have experienced a lot of different things, not just the sights and sounds of Central Alberta.”
Key to Wolf Creek schools was including English as a second language into the curriculum of the program.
“The language enrichment is a really unique part of that program. We really wanted a blend of educational opportunities with some of those cultural experiences,” he said.
He added that an eventual goal of the program is to hopefully pair schools in Wolf Creek with sister-schools in Guangdong.