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Tara VanKleef, 12, a Lowndes Middle School seventh-grader, escorted Taiwan teachers Joy Huang and Mao Chi Lin through the school day Monday. As part of the Azalea International Folk Fair, the teachers and some Taiwan students will visit a different Lowndes County middle school each day.

Two Taiwan teachers spent Monday weighing the differences and similarities between their Asian school and a South Georgia middle school.

While other teachers and students visit Lowndes High School, these teachers and their students will attend a different middle school each day until participating in the annual Azalea International Folk Fair of Valdosta later this week.

Serena Huang, Folk Fair founder, arranged the Taiwanese visit to South Georgia. In June, South Georgia students will visit Taiwan.

“This is the first exchange program,” says Cammie Traylor, a Lowndes Middle School English and social studies teacher. She also hosts one of the Taiwan teachers.

Last year, Huang sponsored a visit by several international students to participate in the Folk Fair’s young inventors program. Two years ago, a Taiwan sports group visited South Georgia.

About a decade ago, Huang, a Taiwan native, created the fair to teach her children about their ancestral heritage while growing up in South Georgia. To increase her children’s interest, she developed a program that would also include her children’s friends and classmates.

These early programs grew into the Azalea International Folk Fair. This event features

displays and exhibits from cultures around the world. Schools will visit the fair Thursday and Friday. The public is invited Saturday, March 4. It includes a World Culture Folk Dance Competition, a science challenge, world geography, the youth mechanical robot project and more.

The Taiwanese teachers and students will be part of the Folk Fair.

The four teachers and students arrived this past Friday evening. They landed at the Valdosta Regional Airport after 16 hours of flight. Seven students and two teachers are from Ming-Sheng Junior High School, while the others represent three Taiwan high schools: Chia-Yi Commercial High School, Chia-Yi Industrial High School, and Singang High School of Arts.

On Monday, the middle school students and teachers Mao Chi Lin and Joy Huang spent the day at Lowndes Middle School. They will attend Hahira Middle School today and Pine Grove Middle School Wednesday. Joy Huang is not related to Serena Huang.

Dr. Derald Jones, Lowndes Middle School principal, met with the students and teachers early Monday. He listed some differences that stood out to him. Taiwan school lasts from 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. with a 30-minute lunch followed by a 30-minute nap. In Taiwan, they shared, the teacher talks and the students listen.

Joy Huang explains that Taiwan schools have fewer computers, white boards and other gear to implement in the classroom. Taiwan schools have computer labs but few if any computers in other classrooms. They primarily use chalk and blackboards.

Near the end of their first day, Joy Huang said she was impressed by how well American teachers control their classrooms and how well students behave.

To determine what students would travel to America, the Taiwanese schools held auditions. While grades and behavior mattered, the student’s ability to understand and communicate in English served as the primary factor in selection, Huang says.

The Taiwan visitors have also been learning about the culture of South Georgia and the United States. On Monday afternoon, they were scheduled to attend a baseball game, Jones said. Individually, the students and teachers stay with South Georgia residents, most from the county school system but some from the Folk Fair, too.

“We tell our host families, let them be a part of their life for the week,” Traylor says. “That way they can submerge into the American culture.”

After participating in the Azalea International Folk Fair, the Taiwan students will visit Florida attractions such as the Kennedy Space Center and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. On Thursday, March 10, they are scheduled to return home to Taiwan.

The Azalea International Folk Fair

Event includes displays, exhibits, a dance competition, world geography, a youth invention and mechanical robot project, a new production of the Chinese tea ceremony, professional performers from Orlando, Fla., presenting “Changing Face,” and a Chinese opera.

When: Public portion all day Saturday, March 5.

Where: James H. Rainwater Conference Center, off Norman Drive.

Admission: $6, adult; $3, 5-12 years old. Open to the public.

More information, schedules: Visit http://gainternationalfolkfair.org



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