Twenty-eight fourth graders at El Verano Elementary School have some new buddies – in China. They are so excited about all things Chinese they are even going to start learning Mandarin. Because, guess what they’ve already discovered – fourth graders in China can speak English.
Jim Tutor’s class now has an exchange program with students in Penglai, arranged by the Penglai committee of the Sonoma Sister Cities Association. His students are communicating with their faraway friends on the Shandong Peninsula, which is similar to Sonoma in that it is China’s premiere region for grape growing and winemaking.
Last summer, the mayor of Penglai and five other civic leaders visited here and met with members of the Penglai sister cities committee. One of the triumphs of the day was an agreement to foster an exchange between young students, and it’s off to a roaring start.
Sister cities member Lynne Joiner, a retired television journalist and author with a deep professional background in China, went to Shanghai for business in December and took a side trip to Penglai to visit the students at Pen Lai Yi San Shi Yan, Tutor’s exchange class. Speaking Mandarin, she was able to tell them all about the students at El Verano. She brought them handwritten letters, photographs and videos, a poster of “A Diary of a Whimpy Kid,” a map of California and a copy of the Sonoma Index-Tribune.
When Joiner returned to Sonoma, she gave Tutor’s class a full report and presented them with seashells and framed drawings the Penglai students made that now adorn their classroom.