Rockdale magnet goes to China
The Citizens. Joe Adgie. August 23, 2017.

Several students from Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology got the opportunity of a lifetime over the summer.

The 10 students, who visited Beijing in June, were honored by the Rockdale County Board of Education at its meeting last Thursday.

The exchange program was made possible through a partnership with the Chinese Cultural and Education Center (CCEC), which was connected to Rockdale Magnet through the National Consortium of Secondary STEM Schools, of which Rockdale Magnet is a member.

During the last year, Rockdale Magnet personnel, including teacher David Bonar and director Amanda Baskett, visited China to teach and visit different partner schools to determine a site for the students most appropriate for them.

The students visited China on an international exchange program and participated in research projects relevant to problems facing those in both Conyers and China.

“We have to work together as a global scientific community to tackle the problems that exist there and here,” said Baskett.

Baskett said those problems may be more similar than one may think, like the problems related to environmental science, which many of the students studied during their time in Beijing.

“As our students have talked about, although we have borders of countries, our air and water have no borders,” Baskett said. “That’s a global community property we have a responsibility to work with.”

The 10 students participated in some very interesting studies, most centering on environmental studies or ways to treat illnesses.

Student Brandon Hong worked on developing an app that would allow those who are colorblind to paint with colors they might not typically see.

“The app aims to apply filters based on a test taken to determine which type of colorblindness a person has,” Baskett said.

Nicolette Ilic was one of the students who visited China for the exchange. For her, the experience was nothing short of amazing, and different from what she expected.

“I never thought I would ever go to China in my life,” Ilic said. “It was really different from what I thought it would be. You hear about the pollution and stuff, and I really expected it to be polluted and really, really crowded, but it wasn’t really like that.”

Ilic said she expected to be in the midst of tightly-packed crowds “shoulder-to-shoulder,” as she put it, but that was not the case, she said, and neither was the pollution she expected.

“The pollution was only really bad on cloudy days,” Ilic said.

Ilic’s experiment centered around saving deep-water rice fields from apple snails, Baskett said.

For Ilic, part of the project involved working with other students.

“What we mainly did was we collaborated and talked more about what we could hypothetically could do with the students,” Ilic said.

Ilic said she received a better understanding about how her research could be used in different settings.

Conyers to China: A several-month process

For the 10 Rockdale Magnet students, the trip to China started back in March with a selection process, which involved an application detailing the research plan and why the students would be a good ambassador for Rockdale Magnet School.

The students and their families met with the CCEC, and the students familiarized themselves with Chinese culture, a culture rich in history.

“Throughout March, April and May, the students worked on learning Chinese culture, presenting on some of the historical sites, so when they visit, they’ll know more about them and ask good questions,” Baskett said.

In addition, the students worked on their presentation and communications skills, which culminated in a skit where they showed off what they had learned.

“They had to put together a skit of common phrases in China and practiced together,” Baskett said. “They had to present their research and practice that, and they had to create a presentation or artifact to show they’re learning about their assigned cultural project, so they do a cultural project, they do their research presentation and they do the group skit. Those are their tasks before their travel.”

Part of the process of making it from Conyers to China is the financial part of the story. Fortunately, the students received help from the school’s booster organization, so students did not have to pay the full cost of the trip.

“The Rockdale Magnet Fund, which is our parent booster organization, supported the trip and the students paid,” Baskett said. “Ultimately, the students paid a reduced fare.”

In addition, two students of a lower socioeconomic status were able to receive a scholarship to pay for the expenses, thanks to the CCEC.

Baskett said the school is working out the logistics of bringing students from China to Conyers to perform similar research in the near future.

“We’re really wanting this to be an exchange,” Baskett said. “We want to welcome and invite Chinese students to our campus this year at some point, and that’s still in the development phase.”

Baskett said the school hopes to welcome Chinese students to the area sometime in the spring.

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