University of Vermont

Diminishing the “Them” and “Us”

How lessons on China diminish the grey zone between “them” and “us”

Social Studies teacher Izzy Provoncha discusses how he incorporated geography lessons on China in South Royalton School classroms

“I want you to realize that the work you have done and are doing is so very important,” stated Gerry Gatz during the final meeting for the 2011 Institute on China and Its Cultures. “Your work is diminishing the grey zone where there is a “them” and an “us”, and very important in building tolerance and understanding of other cultures.”

In a small classroom in Mann Hall on a Saturday morning, teachers and administered gathered in a small room to discuss the curriculum units they have created since participating in the 2011 overseas summer program. Although the room was small, the work being discussed was anything but small. For students in grades 9-12 at Mount Abraham High School, social studies teacher Thomas Learmonth introduced ten 70-minute classes that introduced traditional Chinese social constructs by answering the essential question “What are the key values of traditional Chinese culture?”     

For the students in the afterschool program at Charleston Elementary School, teachers Laurinda Maxwell and Patti Farrell spent six weeks introducing the culture of China in an after school program. The essential question that was posed to the students was “What are the similarities and differences between Chinese culture and American culture?”

 “We collected so much information and activities that we could have continued the after school program for another six weeks.” explained Patti during their presentation. Each participant of the after school program created a book about their study of China that they were able to take home and share with their families.

While all the lesson plans developed will be housed at the Asian Studies Outreach Program’s library, many participants took the initiative to share the work digitally. During her presentation, Allison Bergman shared the link to the LUHS Google site where the art created by Lamoille Union High School students was already on display. Eileen Vaughn was another participant who’s project was hosted on a Google site. Vaughn’s collection of pictures and videos on China have become a popular resource for all the teachers.

To see the full collection of teaching units on China, Japan, and Thailand, please visit our resource web page.