A rewarding and “enlightening” trip to Edmond’s sister city of Engels, Russia, has Edmond Public Schools Superintendent David Goin excited about the potential for academic and cultural exchanges between the students and teachers of both cities.
Goin traveled to Engels — a city of roughly 300,000 people 500 miles southeast of Moscow — the last week in June with an eight-member delegation from Edmond that included representatives from the City of Edmond, Edmond Area Chamber of Commerce, the University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma Christian University and Francis Tuttle CareerTech.
The Edmond delegation’s trip comes on the heels of a May visit by representatives from Engels to Edmond — their third such trip since the sister cities agreement was signed last year.
“This first trip allowed the Edmond delegation to get a feel for the community first-hand, interacting with individuals and groups that might be involved in activities with Edmond students and teachers,” Goin said. “We spent a lot of time discussing with their city leaders the potential avenues for educational and cultural dialogue and exchanged ideas about possibilities for future connections.”
Since getting to Engels requires that travelers have passports and a pre-approved and costly travel visa for entry into Russia, Goin said initial exchanges between students and teachers of both cities likely would occur by using technology to connect the two groups.
“While travel may eventually be worked into activities, initially technology will create opportunities for ongoing interactions between Edmond and Engels students and teachers. With options like Skype and Face Time and Internet-based activities, interactions can go beyond simply being ‘pen pals.’ Projects can be structured so that students can investigate issues of common interest and importance.”
Goin said since English is taught in Engels schools beginning in elementary, language would be less of a barrier for student interactions than previously thought.
“We experienced presentations in English from more than 20 high school-aged students who spoke very plainly and fluently,” Goin said. “In addition, I did a presentation followed by very thoughtful interactions in English with Russian students and teachers during a ‘Q & A’ period.
“It’s very clear that although the people of Engels have had limited contact with Americans and English speaking people that they have a sincere desire for friendship and understanding.”
Goin said during the trip he was particularly moved by a troupe of student musicians and dancers who wowed the Edmond delegation with their ability, enthusiasm and costuming as they performed traditional Russian music and dance.
“Hopefully, we can structure a visit of these young people to come to Oklahoma to share their talent and culture,” Goin said. “We, too, have very talented young people who could serve as ambassadors of Oklahoma and the USA.
“Out of the arts, language and culture, thoughtful discussions could emerge about the circumstances and historical patterns that have brought both cities to their current status and stages of development. I believe that would be extremely beneficial.”
Goin’s trip costing $3,976 was paid for out of the district’s activity fund and included air fare, lodging and meals, said David Fraser, the district’s chief financial officer.
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