While at the Longfeifei Summer Academy in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Chinese students enjoy learning English, making new friends and horseback riding. Image: Longfeifei Summer Academy.

The Centennial State Strengthens its Connections to Asia through Exchange and Education

Japan China

Founded in Shanghai by Fanghua Jiang in 2009, the Longfeifei Youth Summer Academy came to Colorado three years ago through the efforts of Michelle Raz, director of the Chinese Academy at Lowell Whiteman High School. Language classes are an important part of the three week program, but Jiang and Raz both emphasize friendship above all else. Raz described the value of the camp, saying “It’s a neat way for our kids locally […] to get a feel for what it’s like to be an international student, and for Chinese students to get a real eye-opening for how American kids live day to day.” Currently, the U.S. camp hosts 24 children from fifth to ninth grade from the United States and China, while the Chinese camp hosts between 70 to 120 children from Japan, Thailand, Germany, Sweden and the United States. This year, the camp ran from June 30th-July 28th at Fudan University in Shanghai, China and then kicked off in Steamboat Springs, Colorado where it runs until August 8th.

Coloradan students’ interest in Asia has been growing, thanks to these camps and to their own experiences. To build upon that, Asian studies and language teachers have been taking part in the University of Colorado’s Teaching East Asia program (TEA). Established in 1985 as the Rocky Mountain Japan Project, TEA expanded to include China studies in 1997 and became the TEA in 1998. In addition to the China Project and the Japan Project, TEA also includes the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA). These projects provide resources for curriculum development for K-12 education, including workshops and study tours for teachers. Last summer, the NCTA conducted two study tours to Japan, entitled “Cultural Encounters: Exploring Japan’s Diverse Past and Present” and “Exploring Peace Studies in Japan Study,” respectively. As another example of the strength of Colorado’s connections to Japan, the state’s first annual Japanese Kite Festival occurred on August 5th and 6th, creating an opportunity for participants of all ages to make Japanese kites and explore Japanese culture.

Asia-related education programs in Colorado got another boost in July, as Chinese language teachers took part in a 10-day workshop to learn how to incorporate technology into their curriculums, with an eye toward better coordination between Colorado’s Chinese programs. Yinyan Huang, district coordinator in St. Vrain, Colorado, is a huge proponent of this program. According to her, “Learning Chinese is a gift schools can give our students. Everybody needs to be prepared to live in a global village.”

Colorado also boasts eighteen sister-city relationships with cities across the Asia-Pacific, including seven connections shared with Japan and five shared with China. Colorado is certainly a leader among the states of the Mountain West when it comes to strong relations with Asia.

Sarah Batiuk is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington, DC.