HIGHLANDS, NJ - On Tuesday, November 5, 2013, “East” met “West” as the staff and students of Highlands Elementary School hosted twenty-two visiting educators from the city of Hangzhou, China. Over the summer months, Dr. Michael Searson, Executive Director for the Kean University School for Global Education and Innovation assisted the Highlands Administration in developing its long-range technology plan. He was so impressed with the various technologies being integrated into the Highlands Elementary School curriculum that he indicated that he would like to use our school as a visitation site for foreign educators.
Several weeks ago, Dr. Searson contacted Mr. William Ciullo, the Highlands Elementary School principal, and requested that our school host these educators from China. In his request, Dr. Searson indicated the following: “Educators from Hangzhou, China, one of the most dynamic and beautiful cities in China, seek to learn all aspects of the United States educational system. We believe that the high quality work being done by your staff and students should be shared with these educators.”
The morning began with a class of fourth-grade students enjoying breakfast with our visitors. Then, following a brief introduction, teacher chaperones and student leaders conducted tours for small groups of educators. They were able to see the breadth, scope, and depth of the Highlands Elementary School curriculum, from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. They were remarkably impressed with the amount of technology available at Highlands Elementary School. They were more impressed with the way in which five different grade levels of students were simultaneously immersed in true technological integration, with i-Pads and MacBook Pro computers serving as a fundamental component of each lesson.
Visitors were equally impressed with the Highlands Elementary School school-wide integration of the Responsive Classroom model for student character education and school community development. Visitors were able to see a simulation of our Morning Meeting, a daily occurrence in all classes, which gently guides students into their day with a morning greeting, student sharing, a learning activity, and a written Morning Meeting message to let students know what they will be learning on that day.
Our visit ended with a panel discussion, in which our visitors asked about the length of our school day, our extensive curriculum, our gifted and talented program, our extensive fine arts program, and the personalized attention that we are able to give to all of our students. Once again, the quality of our students, our educational program, and, especially, our teaching staff, were very favorably looked upon and complimented by them.
After leaving Highlands Elementary School, our visitors went on to tour both Atlantic Highlands Elementary School and Henry Hudson Regional School, so that they could see the other two schools that complete our highly successful Tri-District, under the guidance of Superintendent Dr. Susan Compton.
Before leaving, Dr. Searson indicated that he would be looking to pair several classes of Highlands Elementary School students with students from Hangzhou, in both a cultural exchange and a true global collaboration based on problem-based and project-based learning. What a terrific learning experience for everyone involved.