With the help of an iPhone app, Gavin Smith was able to talk with Wen Dingsheng, a visiting Chinese student. Although Wen Dingsheng didn't speak much English, the app translated what Smith, a fourth-grader, was saying.
That was just one of many ways students at Columbia Elementary interacted with and learned from the 31 students visiting from Jinhua, in the Zhejiang province of China.
Each of the visiting students, ages 9 to 12, was partnered with a student from Columbia Elementary, as Gavin was.
Lily Walthery, a fourth-grade student, and her family acted as a host family for two visiting girls, Lu Ye and Hu Yang. The girls went to an event at the Dentzel carousel Thursday night which was for host families and the visiting students and teachers. In addition to the students, two teachers and an assistant principal attended.
Friday night, the girls went to piano lessons at Lily's grandmother's house and then had a dinner and played music, Lily said. They also played Wii.
"It's been very fun," Lily said. "They also taught me how to write my name in Chinese."
The experience was educational for both visiting Chinese students and the students at Columbia Elementary.
Gavin said his partner would tell him how to say a few words in Chinese and would talk a little about the culture.
"I asked him if he likes it here and he said yes," Gavin said.
The visiting group arrived Tuesday night and spent time at school and then with host families. In addition to the students and teachers, 15 members of a Chinese education delegation arrived in Logansport late Thursday night.
A welcome party for the members of the delegation on Friday morning included a performance by the Logansport High School swing choir. The Chinese students also performed two songs and played flutes for students and faculty at Columbia Elementary and members of the delegation.
Delegation members then visited with students while they were in the classrooms. They were then surprised with a performance by the Logansport High School marching band and the Berryettes and then posed for pictures with Felix before taking a tour of the high school.
Zhao Xiaoli, vice principal of Dongyang Experimental Primary School, visited Columbia Elementary with the students. Xiaoli said the kids came to experience a different culture.
"We wanted them to broaden their views," Xiaoli said. "They enter into the classroom and host family life and become more well-rounded."
State Rep. Bill Friend also visited with the delegation and observed in Logansport. Friend said he thought it was a great experience.
"The more we interact with other cultures, the more we learn," Friend said. "It's important we learn about each other and if we destroy any misconceptions we have along the way, it's good."
Friend, who visited China two years ago, said it was great to see the younger students experience the cultural exchange program.
Logansport Community School Corp. superintendent Michele Starkey agreed, saying it was interesting to hear teachers talk about how it opens up an entire culture by allowing them to be around the students and witness it first hand, not in a book.
"It was great to see our students welcoming them," Starkey said. "They wanted to show off their school and help in anyway they could."
Members of the delegation had several questions and wanted to know about various subjects including dual credits, choices of classes, school buses, cell phone policies and small group work, Starkey said.
Starkey hopes there will be another cultural exchange visit in May. Some members of the Logansport High School girl's basketball team will be visiting China at the end of October.
"Although the cultural exchange program involves a lot of work from the school and host families, it provides experience," Starkey said. "It (the work) is well worth it for the experience."
Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.