Chinese, American Students Join to Explore Sustainability Issues

Eighteen academically-talented high school students from China and the United States recently wrapped up a unique, three-week residential experience at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where they explored global issues of sustainability and the promise of solutions through various emerging technologies.

The new Global Wisconsin Idea Program was developed by the Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth (WCATY), part of the School of Education, and the Division of International Studies.

The Chinese students came well-prepared for their in-depth learning experience here in Wisconsin, says Carole Trone, director of WCATY.

“Although this is the first visit to the United States for most of our Chinese students, they arrived with excellent English language skills and an energizing curiosity about research and innovation occurring here in Madison,” Trone says. “Our discussions between our American and Chinese students about globally important issues such as sustainability have been inspiring.”

The program consisted of three weeks of lectures, discussion, demonstrations, and field trips to sites around Madison designed to help students to understand ecosystems and to adopt a systems perspective. They also learned about environmental sustainability and using social robotics and digital learning games as tools to explore ideas.

The final week also included a hands-on workshop about the science of stem cells, hosted by the Morgridge Institute for Research and held in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building. The workshop featured an overview of research in the stem cell field and provided students an opportunity to use laboratory techniques developed by scientists to maintain, propagate and direct stem cells into specialized cells.

“Stem cell science is an interdisciplinary field that often requires collaboration from researchers at multiple universities. In many cases, this collaboration becomes international in nature,’’ says Rupa Shevde, a senior scientist and director of outreach experiences for the Morgridge Institute. “By engaging these future leaders with the work going on here in Wisconsin, we are opening the door for potential future collaborations while building cultural understanding.”

Human embryonic stem cells were first isolated on the UW–Madison campus by Dr. James Thomson. Today, Wisconsin researchers are considered leaders in developing an understanding of these cells in the search for treatments and cures for such diseases as diabetes, Parkinson’s and heart disease.

During the workshop, the students were joined by Xu Xiaozhou, dean of the School of Education at Zhejiang University, China, who was on campus to participate in a program on global higher education.

All the students lived together in the Kronshage Residence Hall in the Lakeshore Residence area along Lake Mendota. The program also offered a variety of enrichment experiences designed to encourage social connections among Chinese and American students – including a banquet and dance at the conclusion of the program.

By Kerry Hill

Photos by Kerry Hill, Division of International Studies