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Touring China Inspires Art, Builds Cultural Awareness

East Kentwood High School teacher Adrienne DeMilner will lead her students this year in creating art inspired by a trip to China this past summer.

Students will craft their own miniature Terracotta Warriors, modeled after the clay figures that guard the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. They will create pottery and paint calligraphy using styles DeMilner studied for the trip.

“It’s mostly what I learned about the culture that I will bring into the lessons,” said DeMilner, who received credits for attending the trip through the University of the Pacific, based in California, for which she created three lesson plans.

DeMilner and art teacher Le Tran, who are National Art Honor Society co-advisers, joined seniors Cheyenne Brown, Bryson Pacheco and Emily Webb on a nine-day-trip absorbing culture and art in Shanghai, Xi’an and Beijing through EF Educational Tours.

The tour company exposes students to countries across the globe, and aims to cultivate a love for travel and global awareness. The Kenowa Hills group was part of a group of 48 students and chaperones.

Teachers Le Tran and Adrienne DeMilner enjoyed learning about Chinese art and architecture, like the Great Wall of China
Teachers Le Tran and Adrienne DeMilner enjoyed learning about Chinese art and architecture, like the Great Wall of China

In Xi’an, the group was mesmerized by the sight of the 2,200-year-old,human-sized Terracota Warriors, they said. The army of more than 6,000 detailed figures, all with different faces, surround the tomb.

“When we walked in we teared up,” DeMilner said. “It was such an emotional moment.”

The Yangtze River, skylines and architecture are also images the teachers plan to bring back to the classroom, as well as the feeling of standing in Tianamen Square, the large city square in the center of Beijing where citizen protests took place in 1989; and the Shanghai Jade Buddha Temple, a 130-year-old religious structure.

For Tran, travel is education in itself. She has chaperoned student tours to Spain and France and will lead one to Italy next year. She plans to organize a tour annually.

“I thought it was so important for our students to know the work. The classroom is the world,” Tran said. “My hope is that they will see there’s so much more to it than their community. I want them to explore more, be a traveller, learn as much as they can about the world because it enriches them and makes them better people.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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