by Becky GINOS
LAYTON—The Davis Conference Center was abuzz with activity last week. To the casual observer it looked like some kind of math and science competition, which it was – but in Chinese.
The Davis School District Confucius Institute hosted the second annual Chinese Immersion National Math, Science & Arts Competition for students from all over the United States Feb. 1 – 3. Some 180 participants battled for recognition using their Chinese-speaking skills and knowledge of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math).
“It’s an opportunity for them to showcase their second language and STEAM skills,” said Bonnie Flint, Supervisor, Secondary World Languages and Director of the Confucius Institute for the Davis School District. “A knowledge of math, science and the arts really prepares them for the 21st century.”
Last year was the first competition. “It was in Florida and it was small,” said Flint. “They wanted to try it out and see if it would work. We said we’d host it the second year.”
Davis County had a strong showing at the event with about 20 students placing in the top three of several divisions with some taking first.
The Confucius Institute was established at the Davis district in 2012. “We work under the umbrella of College Board,” said Flint. “It was created to celebrate the tie between Chinese and the STEM world.”
Griffin Mortensen is a fourth grader in the Chinese immersion program at Muir Elementary and competed in the event. “They asked us questions about science like clouds, temperature, how does water turn to ice and what makes your hair stick up when you rub it with a balloon,” he said. “It was all in Chinese. We got a packet and studied with the team two days a week. I’ve been in the program since kindergarten.”
Teachers in the district and neighboring districts as well as people from the community assisted in running the competition, said Flint. “They were well trained and they’ve been amazing. They’ve done a phenomenal job.”
Participants won trophies and cash prizes. Some high school students won trips to China.
There are currently four Chinese immersion elementary schools in Davis County. “Students who emerge from our district’s K-12 programs with strong math and science skills, as well as a high level of Chinese language and culture proficiency, will be uniquely prepared for the future,” said Flint.