BRUNSWICK — On Wednesday morning, former Brunswick High School teacher Fred Koerber paced in front of 17 Chinese students and talked about one of Maine’s marquee industries: lobstering.
“We have to measure the lobster to make sure it’s legal size,” Koerber said, pointing a laser to a projected slide on a screen. “If it’s too small, we have to throw it back. If it’s too big, we have to throw it back.”
Now looking to the students, Koerber asked, “why would we throw back the big ones?”
“To make sure it can have babies?” one of the students answered.
“That’s right. To make sure it has babies,” Koerber said. “That’s our breeding stock.”
The class at Brunswick High School was one of many that students from Jinhua No. 1 High School attended this week, and something that could mark the beginning of a foreign exchange program between the two schools.
“We’re exploring it and hopefully we can develop a good relationship with our sister school in China,” Assistant Superintendent Greg Bartlett said.
Bartlett said the summer program, which spanned four days this week, is part of a test to see how the two schools work together and what future opportunities may exist.
The School Board signed a sister school agreement with Jinhua in February to explore the idea of attracting students from the Chinese school and possibly sending some local students abroad.
“A lot of Chinese students want to come to the United States because we have a good educational system that they want to access,” Bartlett said. “A lot of them want to go to universities, so exposing themselves to the country is highly desirable to many Chinese students.”
Suzanne Fox, an exchange program facilitator at Intercultural Consulting in Portland, helps Brunswick schools make connections with Chinese schools. She said her goal is to help American and Chinese students become global citizens.
“Doing the sister-school model is one of the best ways to build an integrated and lasting relationship,” Fox said. “The global awareness and diversity (is) an opportunity for students to learn (beyond their usual curriculum).”
Bartlett said it could be a year or two before an official exchange program begins:
There’s a lot of Homeland Security Administration paperwork to fill out, and the two schools also must determine what kind of program is right for them.
“There is an increasing need for schools to explore this, (to) look at other ways of surviving,” Bartlett said, “but it remains to be seen how this will all work out.”
Fred Koerber taught 17 Chinese students on Wednesday as part of a pilot exchange program at Brunswick High School.