or some students studying Chinese at Memorial High School, their summer assignment was intense: Spend three weeks in China, conversing with natives and exploring their culture.
“What surprised me is how different the rural area of China is from the big cities,” said Alison Knickelbine, 18, who plans to major in Chinese when she begins college this fall at the University of Hawaii in Manoa.
Nine young people and six adults who made the trip gathered recently for their first reunion, sharing a cake decorated with a Chinese proverb and laughing at memories such as sampling exotic food and planting bamboo in a panda reserve.
Ten young explorers from Sun Prairie’s two middle schools returned last month from the Amazon rainforest in Peru, where they expected to meet pink dolphins, spot umbrella birds and catch piranha.
“The kids learned an enormous amount of science,” said Geri Stenstrup, a teacher at Royal Oaks Elementary who led the trip two summers ago. Next year, she’ll take older teens to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
The China trip cost about $3,200 per person. Two students received full scholarships and one a partial scholarship, supported by fundraising projects such as selling Chinese dumplings and egg rolls in the Memorial lunchroom.
The Center for East Asian Studies at UW-Madison paid most costs for the accompanying teachers, and a grant will pay for developing curriculum from the trip.