Kent Career Tech Center and Kent Innovation High School recently attracted international attention from a group of Chinese instructors looking to learn about education American-style. They learned plenty touring the schools’ nontraditional blend of offerings such as urban gardening, culinary arts and school-to-business partnerships.
About 40 faculty members from Changsha Social Work College and Hunan Radio and Television University vocational schools, both in Hunan, recently visited the facilities as part of a study of tech centers and high schools in the United States.
At the Tech Center, they witnessed Sustainable Agriscience in action in the center’s huge greenhouse, with hydroponics, aquaponics and farm-to-table projects. They also saw cookies and pastries baked fresh daily in the hospitality wing, and observed tech-oriented students working on projects in Information Technology and Mechatronics.
Students explained to the group how the skills they are learning now will translate into college and careers.
“We love any opportunity to share locally or internationally the things our students do,” Tech Center Principal John Kraus said. “We talk about our mission as being world-class, and we feel that when we have the opportunity to showcase internationally we are living up to that mission.”
The Chinese teachers’ visit came just a week after Gov. Rick Snyder, state legislators and businesses toured the Tech Center as part of a statewide tour focused on skilled trades.
Chinese educators said they planned to return home with new ideas for education.
“We came here to make a comparison,” said Pamela Pan, an instructor at Changsha Social Work College. “It’s very interesting. The program here is more like industry than the traditional classroom.”
“I think the career and tech is very useful for students,” added Sunny Qian, noting that technical centers are run separately from high schools in China, solely for those who need skills to get jobs. “(The Tech Center) challenges high school students to know their passion and interest to prepare for future careers.”
Ferris Facilitating Visits
The educators visited through a partnership with Ferris State University. During their 12-week stay, they are spending time at FSU on individual research projects and in classrooms for facilitated discussion. Other tours include the University of Michigan, Washtenaw Community College and Michigan State University.
There’s often a misunderstanding of what the Tech Center offers, said Ron Koehler, Kent ISD assistant superintendent for Organizational & Community Initiatives. Even locally, he said, many people don’t know programs are geared toward many different specialties, serving both college-bound students and those entering the workforce directly.
“We’ve found for anybody to understand the benefits of what we offer here they need to see it,” Koehler said.
Bob Ewigleben, FSU director of international development, said the partnership with China is a way to bring an international presence to the campus and to build Ferris’ name in China.
Located on the Kent ISD campus on East Beltline Avenue NE, the Tech Center offers programs in more than 20 career fields along with internships and apprenticeships. Kent Innovation High delivers instruction focused on project-based learning, collaboration and integrated technology.