White House Office of Communications
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 4, 2014) — Yu Ying Public Charter School Principal Maquita Alexander introduced First Lady Michelle Obama to a group of 6th grade students. Twenty one of the 29 students went to China last year on home stays and made a special presentation of their trip to the First Lady.
Mrs. Obama wore a soft black dress with a flared skirt and a bow at the waist. She told the students she was preparing to go on a trip to China where she will launch a companion educational program to share the experience through blogs and videos with American students to encourage them to travel and learn about other countries.
The First Lady then spent the next 43 minutes watching a presentation on the students’ two-week trip last spring to Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai, which included visits to local classrooms, a visit to the Terra Cotta warriors, Forbidden City, Great Wall and asking them about it.
Many of the students shared their misconceptions of China, with tales of rural scenes, smoggy city skies, the poor, and all the bicycles. Mrs. Obama laughed along with them as they explained that those cities are actually much larger and more modern than they had expected from watching American television.
Students shared their experience staying overnight with Chinese families and their sightseeing.
On Terra Cotta warriors, Mrs. Obama asked, “ Who takes care of the warriors now?”
A student answered: “They’re still there, seven feet tall, taller than a man.”
At another point, the class discussed all the new foods they had tried, including pickled jelly fish, chicken feet and fish brains.
“How were they prepared?” asked Mrs. Obama about the fish brains.
“We ate them right out of the fish head,” a student responded.
“Let’s not tell Malia and Sash about that, then,” whispered Obama. “That sounds good though! I’m an adventurous eater!”
To prepare for her trip, Mrs. Obama asked the students a lot of questions about the Chinese school experience and students, asking: What sports do they play?
Ping pong, basketball, badminton were the replies.
What did you like better than here?
The responsibilities they got included going home for lunch, and walking alone between classes.
Obama also asked the students what they thought American students would want to know.
“Holidays, and there’s a Children’s Day,” said one student, “Traditions,” said another.
Obama asked, “How do you feel about traveling now?”
“I want to go to Italy,” said one. “I want to go to Africa and Vietnam,” said Peter Olreich, 11.
Obama got some travel advice: “learn to use chopsticks”, “keep away from street vendors”, “don’t drink the water,” “watch out for pick pockets,” “be open minded.”
The 6th grade Student presenters included Elijah Isaac, 11; Cecelia Russell, 11; Vivienne Rioux Bailey, 10; Rachel Powell Young, 12; Kasi Rogers, 11; Peter Olreich, 11; Ruth Abraham,11; Paul Colvin, 11; and Sofia Nuri, 10.
Mrs. Obama then went upstairs where about a dozen pre-schoolers then performed a traditional fan dance with kung fu moves, and which ended with a chorus of Psy’s “Gangham Style,” and conducted a vocabulary lesson with the First Lady, teaching her how to say: hello (Ni hao), my names is, I love you, and goodbye.
At one point, 4 year old Ana Inskeep told the First Lady, “I love you Mrs. Obama” in Mandarin.
When it came time to take pictures, there was a disagreement about who should sit in Mrs. Obama’s lap, but it was diplomatically resolved, with Ana trading places, with 4 year old, Saadiq McCauley for photos.
Mrs. Obama, said good bye (Zai jian) in Mandarin to the class, hugged teacher, Crystal Chen and thanked her, and just before she left the room, 4 year old, Penone Fowler grabbed a hug with the First Lady as well. She left around 2:30 p.m.
According to the first lady’s office, the First Lady Michelle Obama is visiting the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School to as part of her focus on education and reaching out to students for her upcoming trip to China. She is traveling to schools in Xi’an, Beijing, and Chengdu.
Yu Ying is a Chinese-immersion International Baccalaureate, elementary school (pre-k-6) in Washington, DC. It opened in 2008 with 130 students, and at the time, it was the only public/private school of its kind.
Demand in the 2013-2014 lottery resulted in more than 1,000 applications for about 40 spots. The school now has 511 students, and its charter was extended to 12th grade. Currently 77.6 percent of students are considered “on grade leve” for Mandarin.
Children in pre-K are fully immersed in Mandarin, Chinese every day. K-5th have all subjects in either English or Mandarin on a rotational basis.
First Lady’s speech
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 4, 2014) — The Office of the First Lady has released the remarks of Michelle Obama the were given at Yu Ying Public Charter School, a Chinese immersion school in Washington, D.C.
MRS. OBAMA: I’m delighted to be here. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m going to take a trip in a couple of weeks to China, and I heard that you all took a very similar trip. Did everybody here go on the trip? How many people went to China? Yes.
Well, you guys are going to help me out with my trip because you’re going to prep me. See, I have all of these wonderful policy people that help me prep, but I figured since you actually visited some of the cities that I’m going to go to that I would get a good sense of what to expect, what you learned, what you liked, what you didn’t like, some of the questions that you think I should ask and be prepared for.
Because I do a lot of international travel, and everywhere I go I try to focus on education. Because one of the things that I want to learn from young people in China is what works for them, what keeps them motivated to keep working hard, studying hard in school. And I also want to take kids from America with me on those trips. If they can’t do it physically, I want them to be following what I do.
Because what you guys probably learned is that being able to go to another country and learn about other cultures and traditions, that’s a real gift. Not a lot of kids get to do that, but it’s going to be important as you grow up and you get jobs and you start living in a world that is a very global world. It’s important to know about other cultures, other traditions.
And so that’s why we’re here, because you guys are already ahead of the curve. And your school is a model for what hopefully more schools in this country will do to expose kids to other countries. So I’m excited to hear what you have to say. I’m going to stop talking. My job is to listen now, okay? Take it away.