Lower and Upper School Mandarin Students Shine Bright at STARTALK

Recently, lower and upper school Mandarin students from Friends Select School performed in the capstone event for the STARTALK Chinese Teacher Advancement Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Nearly 60 students from across the mid-Atlantic region participated in this showcase of their intensive language learning experience, some appearing by video. More than 20 Chinese professors from Penn and the STARTALK organization were also in attendance, along with almost 20 K-12 Mandarin teachers from the greater Philadelphia area. That included Friends Select teachers Faye Wei and Yan Huang, for whom this was the culmination of the program they have participated in since last summer.

This event required students to present in Mandarin on the Chinese “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Teams from all over the region presented on different aspects of this initiative, including the historical origins that began with the ancient Silk Road. Team presentations included Ambassador Zhang Qian’s journey to the west, the story of Marco Polo, and trade along the Silk Road—all delivered entirely in Mandarin.

Wei’s lower school team of 4th graders included Ella Goldman, Elena Liu, Rafaela Rimoch, Kauveri Shah, Oliver Vaughan, and Jackson Young. They presented a skit titled “A Bite of the Silk Road: Pre-Qin Dynasty,” and engaged the audience with a humorous and animated time-traveling tour of food in modern and ancient China.  

The upper school had two teams participating. The first group, which included Harrisson Li, Andrew Raine, Philip Raine, and Sierra Wei, presented on “Chinese Exercise for Life and Wellness,” with a special Chinese exercise demonstration. The second group, consisting of 11th graders Alec Kane, Silas Mohr, and Max Rayborn, presented “A Dialogue—Exploration of the Silk Road.” This dialogue focused on the massive projects currently taking place in south and west Asia and Africa, which China is leading. Students talked about the positive and negative impacts of these projects on these respective regions.   

Students earned two first-place performances for their efforts. Wei’s 4th graders won in the lower school division, while Huang’s 11th grade group won in the upper school division. It was an excellent opportunity for Friends Select students to showcase their grasp of Mandarin and Chinese culture.