Metro Early College High School

Metro Early College High School, located in Franklin County, Ohio, is home to an innovative Mandarin program in its second year. Their award-winning program perfectly compliments the school’s STEM-focused (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) curriculum; their school features the only high school-level Chemistry course taught in Chinese in the U.S.early1

“The focus of Metro High School’s Mandarin Chinese courses is to train students to function successfully in Chinese culture. In our class, students strive to go beyond grammar and vocabulary and learn how to successfully represent themselves, develop and maintain relationships, and generally how to behave in a culturally appropriate way in a Chinese context,” says Pinpin Peng, Mandarin teacher at Metro High School.

Metro High School is closely affiliated with Ohio State University, and has based a majority of its curriculum on that of OSU, including the Mandarin program. Students at Metro High School learn the same content, vocabulary, and grammar as the students at the neighboring university. However, the Metro High School course features an added cultural component that is missing in the University’s courses. Peng Lao Shi says putting the language in a cultural context helps to keep the students engaged and invested in learning Chinese.

Over the course of the school year, Peng Lao Shi organizes the course content into three main units. The first covers Chinese geography and history, the second teaches students about Chinese traditions, such as ritual holidays and festivals, while the third unit is about Chinese medicine and culinary customs (see special feature on student projects). These units give students a well-rounded view of Chinese culture, while incorporating basic vocabulary and grammar.

early2Metro Early High School is Ohio’s first STEM-focused high school. “Our goal is for Metro students to combine their STEM skills with foreign language and cultural understanding to develop global professional leaders for the diplomatic, political and economic security of our country,” said Peng Lao Shi.

Peng Lao Shi is certified to teach both chemistry and Chinese, and has three years of chemistry and Chinese teaching experience, making her the ideal candidate to lead in the development of this cross-curricular course, the first of its kind.

The Chemistry in Chinese course is open to students who have earned three credits of Chinese (more than 350 hours of Chinese learning) and at least one science credit (physics or biology). The goal of this course is to integrate Chinese with instruction in chemistry content, and to make Chinese language the vehicle for strengthening general chemistry knowledge and skills. “This program has attracted nationwide attention, and we hope after one year’s development, we can share our experience with other schools who want to set up similar programs.”

The greatest challenge for Peng Lao Shi in constructing this course is teaching chemistry vocabulary in Chinese, which can be quite complicated. She spends the first half of the class teaching relevant vocabulary for the day’s lesson, and the second half of the class teaching the content using the vocabulary just covered. “Because of the complexity of some of the concepts, there are times when I have to explain it once in English to make sure everyone understands. However, after using English I go back and explain it again in Chinese, to reinforce the vocabulary and concepts.” So far, the course has been successful, and Peng Lao Shi is confident that her students are able to understand both the Chinese and chemistry content at a fairly high level.

Final Project Ideas from Metro High School!
Unit Theme: Geography and History
Project: Imaginative Trip
Students are given an imaginary $3,000 budget to plan a trip to China. They are responsible for choosing destinations, booking all travel and accommodations, including airfare, hotel, and other transportation, and choosing destinations in the cities they visit. Students must research all aspects of the trip and draw from real life. Using PowerPoint, students present their trip to the class, paying special attention to the history and traditions of the areas they chose to visit. This project gives students the ability to create a real-life scenario while learning about various cities in China.

Unit Theme: Traditions, Holidays and Festivals
Project: Cultural comparison of Chinese and American holidays
Students are given a list of 6 Chinese holidays and 7 American holidays. They must choose 3 pairs of holidays (3 Chinese, 3 American), and compare and contrast them. In addition, they must design their own imaginary holiday. This holiday is to be an American holiday whose objective is to promote Chinese culture in the U.S. Students must create all aspects of this holiday, including the date, the activities associated with the holiday, foods, and symbols. Using PowerPoint, students present their project to the class. The heavy creative element of this project allows students to have fun while paying close attention to Chinese cultural traditions and considering how they would fit in an American context.