During the week of March 19-26, four high school students selected by Science, Math, and Technology Education Center to participate in the North Carolina International Science Competition (NCISC) are traveling to Beijing, China to present their research, meet students from other countries, and experience Chinese culture. This blog highlights the journey of these future science rockstars of North Carolina! Today, we hear from one of the adult travelers on the trip, Jeff Cox who is superintendent of Alleghany County Schools. See more pictures and updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
What an experience this trip to Beijing, China has been! I have been so impressed by the students we have met from all over the world. Our Chinese hosts have been truly amazing, as they go to almost any length to make sure we are well taken care of, safe, and happy. They are so accommodating they even take on “American” names for their week with us, as they know we would struggle with the pronunciation of their Chinese names. I could not help but ask myself how likely it would be that an American group of students would adopt names from a visiting delegation’s native language to make it easier on the guests? This is a small gesture, but it is symbolic of the lengths they will go to ensure we are comfortable.
While I knew our North Carolina students were very impressive, I wasn’t sure how they would stack up against the international competition. I am proud to say, I would be confident in putting our group of four students up against any four from around the world. Our kids are every bit as intelligent, articulate and poised as any group from any other country. Seeing how our students are able to explain their very complicated projects to all of the spectators has confirmed in my mind just how impressive these young folks are.
One other thing that has been a bit of an unexpected benefit of this entire experience is getting to see true relationships being formed between both the students and adults in our group with other students and adults from a dozen different countries around the world. We seemed to have formed quick friendships with our Chinese hosts, as well as the groups from Australia, Denmark, and South Africa.
It has been a wonderful experience for me getting to talk to both students and adults from all of these other countries about education in their native countries. It has confirmed some of what I thought prior to coming here, but it has also changed some of my preconceived notions about things. Probably the biggest revelation I had was just how similar most of our struggles are. In more ways than not, we are all trying to do the same thing—achieve a high level of rigor and relevance in the education we are providing to our students so that they can compete and lead in the global marketplace.
One of the main benefits of this experience for our students—and for me for that matter—has been to get a firsthand look at what the competition looks like on a global scale. Some of the countries are ahead of us in certain areas, but they are lagging behind us in others. We may be ahead of some groups in an area but behind them in others.
Finally, I see our students forming bonds with students from around the globe. I have no doubt some of these will end up being lifelong relationships. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if one or more of our students ends up collaborating with a student from another country on some significant project ten years down the road. When one of our students is trying to solve some complex engineering problem, they just might reach out to that whiz kid from Beijing or Denmark.
In summary, this has been a life-changing trip for all of us. I am truly thankful for the opportunity to see what the best and brightest kids from around the world are creating in the world of science. I cannot wait to share some of what I have seen with my superintendent colleagues and with other educators in my school district and around the state.