USF World News

First Confucius Classroom in Florida to Open at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School
February 18, 2011

On January 15, 2011, the Confucius Institute Headquarters in China approved the establishment of a Confucius Classroom at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School in Pinellas County. Sponsored by the University of South Florida Confucius Institute, the classroom will be the first of its kind in the state of Florida and will be directly supported by the Hanban, the Education Office for the People’s Republic of China. The classroom will receive start-up funds as well as learning materials including books, DVDs, a touch screen monitor, and software, and will be given an annual operating budget of $10,000. In addition, the classroom will open up opportunities for exchange. The school could invite a teacher from China or send a group of students to China for academic benefit. USF Confucius Institute Director, Kun Shi states, “The number of Confucius Classrooms is growing rapidly nationwide, and USF is proud to provide support to the state’s K-12 language programs through partnerships like this one.”

Thurgood Marshall Middle School has offered Mandarin classes since 2008, as part of an array of international language curricula which includes Italian, Spanish, and French. In addition to the language classes, all students are exposed to different cultural perspectives through the school’s Culture and Mentoring class. Currently, there are 85 students enrolled in the Mandarin courses. And students who wish to continue their studies in high school will get the opportunity as Thurgood Marshall’s Chinese language instructor also teaches at Osceola Fundamental High School.

Principal Dr. Dallas Jackson is looking forward to overseeing the first Confucius Classroom in the state. “It is a perfect time to take advantage of this new opportunity; to expand our foreign language opportunities to middle school students. With over one-sixth of the world’s population speaking Chinese, it is important our students get exposure to Mandarin language and culture programs. We looked carefully at China’s role in the global economy and the needs for new competencies and we’ve chosen to focus on China.” says Dr. Jackson. Thurgood Marshall is works to integrate the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education principle in its curricula. STEM focuses on real-world problems, and students are encouraged to reflect on the problem-solving process. The international language offerings at Thurgood Marshall nicely complement STEM. Coincidently, today kicks off USF’s Engineering Expo which seeks to educate K-12 students on the importance of math, science, engineering and technology and USF’s K-12 Chinese Language Conference. Representatives from Thurgood Marshall will be at both events.

Thurgood Marshall and USF have a strong partnership. USF World Languages has been a resource for the language programs at Thurgood Marshall and in December three teachers from the middle school went with USF Confucius Institute Director, Kun Shi, to China as part of the Florida Chinese Bridge Delegation. The trip provided a platform for Florida educators to connect with K-12 schools in China.

Not all Confucius classrooms are the same; they are set up to allow for flexible teaching plans and adapt to suit the needs of the local educational institution. Local Confucius Classrooms have the final say in selecting curriculum and how the funds should be used. According to the Hanban website, in 2009 Confucius Institutes/Classrooms around the world offered 9,000 Chinese language and culture courses with a total enrollment of 260,000. Additionally, more than 7,500 cultural exchange activities took place bringing world-wide participation to over 3 million.

The classroom will be officially unveiled today, February 18, 2011 at a ceremony during the K-12 Chinese Language conference organized by USF Confucius Institute. This new Confucius Classroom will provide additional resources to schools and strengthen the partnership between the USF Confucius Institute and K-12 schools in Florida.
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