By Jed Lanyon
Don Valley Primary School welcomed exchange students from their sister school in China on Monday 5 August.
The visitors come from Wujiang Shengze Central Primary School in the Jiangsu province (120 kilometres east of Shanghai).
The Chinese students had their first full day of class at Don Valley Primary School the next day when they paired up with local students to read bilingual storybooks and then took part in creating Indigenous Australian dot paintings.
“In 2012 we started a sister school relationship with a school in China, which is the Shengze Primary School,” said Lesley Gunther, principal of Don Valley Primary School.
“This is the third visit from Shengze that we’ve hosted… And I have been on three separate trips across to China.”
The visitors’ first impression of Don Valley Primary School was quite a shock as the entire school’s population of 38 is dwarfed by a single class size at their school, which can include up to 40 or 50 students in the Jiangsu province.
Ms Gunther said that the Shengze school features about 5000 students spread across numerous campuses.
“In terms of size, it’s quite disparate… Our whole school is smaller than the standard size classroom in the Jiangsu province.
“So the way we teach is very different in many ways.
“It’s quite a different kind of experience for us both to get our heads around.”
Ms Gunther said that it’s important for her students to embrace a variety of different cultures at a young age.
“They don’t have much exposure to diverse cultures out here as you might do being closer to Melbourne.
“So we thought it was important for our children to be interacting with children from another culture and to have that experience.
“For our students, it’s that sense that you can interact and engage with people from a totally different cultural background and that you can find commonalities and you can get on with them and make friends.”
The Chinese students and staff have been staying at Don Valley staff and students houses.
Ms Gunther said she is hosting four of the visitors in her household.
She said that they hope to take the students to Healesville Sanctuary to get a close look at Australian wildlife.
“We want them to experience the beauty of our area and that natural environment that we have, as well as a bit of Australian culture and our family life.
“We want them to really feel like they are part of our school and our community.”