Adventure in China: Woodlands teachers bring back culture, lessons

THE WOODLANDS – It’s a world away, but one Woodlands teacher found things aren’t so different in China.

Kassia Micek, Courier staff

During a month-long visit to the country, Constance Fontenot, a science teacher from The Woodlands, and Amber Aubrey, a drama teacher, gathered evidence of Chinese culture and globalization to bring back to their students at Aldine Independent School District’s Bethune Academy, a magnet school that serves nearly 550 third- and fourth-graders.

“There are certain things you find no matter where you are, and we want to put that in our culture box,” Fontenot said.

The two teachers brought back items purchased at Wal-Mart and placemats from Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s that students should recognize even though the packaging is in a different language.

The idea for the trip started after students learned Aubrey started her teaching career in Wuhan, China.

“The kids were always asking about China and asking her to speak in Chinese, so we wanted to go there and bring all this back to them,” Fontenot said.

The duo, who work together in the academy’s Fine Arts Department, lived with a family in Wuhan, China, saw what life was like in a small town at Yangshuo and watched performances in LiJiang, all in search of materials such as traditional instruments, music, costumes, art and dance videos, to create a school-wide performance on China once back at school.

Fontenot, who is in charge of the academy’s Garden Club, and Aubrey also visited gardens.

“We checked gardens everywhere we went and flowers, so we knew what kind of vegetables they had so we knew what seeds to buy so we could plant a Chinese garden at our school,” Fontenot said.

The voyage was made possible with a $10,000 Fund for Teachers grant.

“We give grants to individual teachers to pursue professional development,” Karen Kovach-Webb, National Fund for Teachers executive director, said. “They tell us what they need in their classroom and how they intend to share it with their students.

“What we provide them more than anything is the opportunity to pursue learning.” To learn more about Fund for Teachers, visit www.fundforteachers.org.