Inside a classroom at St. Clare’s School on Staten Island, Sam Lin Gaoxi, 8, a visiting student from China, skillfully demonstrated his origami creation to attentive students and teachers during the school’s 12th annual Summer STEM and Robotics Adventure.
Sam, who will enter third grade at his public school in China, was one of four Chinese cultural exchange students who took part in St. Clare’s School’s summer program. The four students and two adult coordinators from China participated in the program July 8-12.
The three-week program, which ended July 12, drew 314 students in all. It is open to pre-K to eighth grade students from public and private schools.
“I like the paper-cutting, and I like the science environment here,” Sam told Catholic New York in Chinese shortly after his origami presentation July 10. “The teachers here are very nice.” Serving as interpreter was his mother, Natalie Goa, who was one of the coordinators for the Chinese group.
“This was a good chance for them to be exposed to a new culture and a new language,” Ms. Goa said of her son and the other visiting students. In addition to science her son enjoys art. “He loves painting,” she said.
The five-day cultural exchange stemmed from a friendship formed in 2016 by Ms. Goa, co-owner of a language school, and Marissa Marino, an ESL teacher based on Staten Island, when Ms. Marino was teaching at the language school in Xiamen, China. she was also assisting in the St. Clare summer program.
“My niece and nephews have been a part of the St. Clare family for many years,” Ms. Marino told CNY. “I was thrilled when my sister, Michele Nichols, informed me of the summer STEM/Robotics program…American students have had fun playing Chinese games, using chopsticks and writing Chinese characters, while (the exchange students) are having a blast building their robots and practicing their English.”
Organizers said the summer program is built around thematic STEM design challenges and includes robotics, coding, computers, dance, art and outdoor games. Students in grades 4-8 were immersed in the world of robotics using NXT and EV3 building kits and Mindstorms programming software; they sought to solve as many challenges as possible using different attachments, motors and sensors. Younger students, from pre-K to third grade, explored free-style building, cooperative play and problem solving.
The other three students from China were Steven Qiu Yongqi, 13, and Ed Xu Wenhong, 13, both entering eighth grade, and Coco Zeng Jiewen, 12, entering seventh grade. Besides science projects, Coco said she enjoys sports. Steven likes Chinese literature and Ed really likes math. Steven called St. Clare’s School Summer STEM and Robotics Adventure Program “wonderful.”
The group’s 12-day cultural immersion visit to Staten Island ends July 19 when they return to China.
Catherine Gardella, 12, an eighth-grader at St. Clare’s School, was among the summer program’s students. “It’s great that they can come here and see what we do, and they can share some of their culture and we can share some of our culture,” Catherine told CNY.
Mary Lee is director of the summer program and a science teacher at the school. Theresa Signorile is the school principal. “STEM is interdisciplinary—science, technology, engineering and math; so we bring that all together into this program,” Mrs. Lee said. “And with the Chinese students, it gave us another element where we could bring in the Chinese culture into all the activities that we’re doing.”