Educators from South Korea
By Chia-wa Yeh, Research Coordinator and Teacher
On February 21, 2003, Bing School entertained eighteen early-childhood educators from Seoul, South Korea: ten from the Ehwa Women’s University and eight from the Duksung Women’s University. Last summer Bing received a short visit from the group’s leaders: Dr. Kee-Sook Lee, director of the Ehwa University Demonstration Kindergarten (Korean kindergartners are equivalent to U.S. preschoolers), and Dr. Dong-Ju Shin, director of Duksung Women’s University Kindergarten. This time they brought their entire staff.
The South Korean delegation came on a study tour, visiting preschools in the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles. After seeing three outstanding preschools in San Francisco and Oakland, the educators spent a morning at Bing. Welcomed by Helen Bing, who hosted the visit, and director Jeanne Lepper, they were very interested in the natural environment at Bing as well as the activities for children. Some focused on the water table set-up. Some were drawn to the many unit blocks available in each classroom and children’s building structures. Some wanted to know about the different musical instruments in the music rooms. The visitors marveled at the recently renovated brick patio, children’s library, seminar room, staff lounge, and bathrooms. They were delighted to see that the children had been reading Yellow Umbrella, a beautifully illustrated picture book by the Korean author Jae Soo Liu that Helen Bing discovered.
After the tour of the school, assistant director Jennifer Winters gave a presentation of a project centering on Stanford’s Rodin Sculpture Garden. She showed slides of children visiting the garden, recounting the children’s comments and how their skill with clay sculpture progressed over additional visits.
After the presentation, the Korean visitors and the Bing staff exchanged ideas and thoughts in a question-and-answer session that revealed both similarities and differences in approach. For example, a Korean educator asked about dirt being tracked indoors as a result of wearing the same shoes indoors and outdoors. She noted that it is customary in Korea to use indoor slippers to keep classrooms clean. Another Korean teacher, interested in encouraging children’s in-depth investigation through project work, asked how Bing staffers integrate children’s interests into the curriculum on an ongoing basis.
The culminating event of the morning was joining West Room for story time. Sitting in the back, the visitors listened attentively as the children sang the “Popcorn Song” and recited nursery rhymes and as teacher Michelle Kellebrew read Eric Carle’s Walter the Baker. Then head teacher Tom Limbert paid a special tribute to the guests by singing the Korean song “Dang Sin Eun Noogoo Shimnika,” incorporating children’s names in the song. With smiles from ear to ear, the delegation sang along. They were impressed by Tom’s singing and the effort to acknowledge and include the Korean-speaking children who attend Bing.
In the afternoon, Helen Bing led the group on a walking tour of the art on display at Stanford Hospital and Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, providing information on various paintings, artists, and artifacts. The group also stopped at the hospital garden to appreciate the many blooming flowers. The tour then continued on to the Rodin Sculpture Garden, the Stone River sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy, and Timetable by Maya Lin.
After their full day, as the visitors boarded their bus, Dr. Kee-Sook Lee said, “I’m very impressed by Bing’s beautiful play yards and the teachers’ passion in early-childhood education. On top of that, I’m most impressed by the dedication of Mrs. Helen Bing and Mrs. Jeanne Lepper.”
We heard from our guests not long after they arrived back in Korea. They sent a set of thoughtful gifts — traditional Korean child’s outfits — to share Korean culture with all the children. Their bright colors and design attract the children, and they enjoy donning the outfits. It had truly been a fruitful cultural and educational exchange.