Des Lacs-Burlington High School biology teacher Mary Eldredge-Sandbo came back from her weeklong trip to China with many things to share with her students.
"It was busy, it was noisy, it was crowded, it was beautiful," said Eldredge-Sandbo, who said she loved every bit of her trip, which took her to Beijing and Shanghai.
Eldredge-Sandbo is a 2012 National Education Association Foundation Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow. She is one of a group of 32 teachers who are building their global competency skills.
Andrea Johnson/MDN • Des Lacs-Burlington biology teacher Mary Eldredge-Sandbo traveled to China this past summer with a group of other American teachers.
The fellowship was an expansion of the NEA Foundation's annual Awards for Teaching Excellence program. Eldredge-Sandbo is a recipient of the Award for Teaching Excellence.
During the trip, the teachers, who hailed from many different states, were encouraged to regularly record their impressions in a video diary and reflect on a particular question that they could use to develop a unit to use in the classroom.
Eldredge-Sandbo said she focused on the environment and paid close attention to whether it was being taken care of or was not. The trip was so fast that Eldredge-Sandbo said she is sure she didn't get a complete picture of what life is like in China, but she said she had the impression of a country growing so quickly that it isn't able to deal with preserving the environment.
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"There was so much smog everywhere," she said.
Eldredge-Sandbo, used to the peace and quiet of small town Des Lacs, was also stunned by how big Beijing and Shanghai were. When the group of American teachers crossed the street in one of the cities, they tried to cross it with a native of the city. The native, using hand signals, would tell the teachers when they should stop and when it was OK to proceed across the street.
Eldredge-Sandbo also noticed how many people traveled through the cities using bicycles.
The teachers visited two schools, one a trade school in Beijing and one a rural middle school in Shanghai. The vocational school in Beijing was large and modern and students were seen learning different trades such as massage therapy or hairdressing. The middle school in Shanghai was out of session for the summer, but Chinese officials brought back 20 middle school students and teachers to talk with the Americans. The students demonstrated paper cutting for the Americans, which teachers said is done to teach the students patience and perseverance and how to pay attention. The students were happy to have a chance to talk with the American teachers in English and to ask questions about American schools.
Eldredge-Sandbo said she also learned a great deal from the other American teachers on the trip and has many new ideas about how to use technology and lessons she can use in the classroom.
Eldredge-Sandbo plans to teach a unit on global footprints in her classes and said it will be interesting to look at the products sold in stores here and where they come from. She always knew that many items she buys in local stores were made in China but now she can put a face on the people who make them, she said.
Eldredge-Sandbo will also team teach a workshop on her trip to China at the North Dakota Education Association Convention later this month. Another teacher from Grand Forks who also made the trip to China will teach it with her.
After 30 years of teaching, all of it at Des Lacs-Burlington, Eldredge-Sandbo said she still loves what she does and is always trying to become a better teacher. Particularly in biology, where so many advancements have been made, it's important for her to keep learning.
"I feel like this is such an awesome profession," she said. "There's always something new to learn, something new to try."