Meet the Black Americans going home to China

Updated 10:25 AM ET, Tue December 27, 2016

(CNN)Paula Madison grew up knowing she was different.

Born in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Harlem, New York, she was raised by a single mother who looked Chinese.
“When my mother opened the door and told me that dinner is ready, other kids would be very surprised,” Paula says. “Sometimes, they’d start using racial slurs.”
Madison’s father was African-Jamaican and left her mother when she was three.
“My mother always looked sad because she was away from her family,” she says. “I’ve known for my whole life that my grandfather is Chinese. I thought helping my mother find her family would make her happy.”
Paula knew that her grandfather had gone to Jamaica from China in 1905 to work on a sugar plantation and after his contract was fulfilled, he stayed in Jamaica to open a store.
She was determined to find out which village he came from and if he had any living relatives in China, but the only clue she had was her grandfather’s name: Samuel Lowe.

Paula Madison's mother, Nell Vera Lowe.

Madison said she traveled to Jamaica “maybe 20 times” without much progress. Her luck changed when she went to Toronto in 2012 for a conference on the Hakka, an Chinese ethnic group that emigrated widely, and met scholar Keith Lowe.
“I said, ‘Oh my god, you’re the only Chinese Jamaican I’ve met with the same last name as my grandfather’,” Madison recalls.
Madison begged Lowe to investigate, and Lowe promised Paula that he would contact one of his nephews in Hong Kong, despite having never heard of a Samuel Lowe.
The next day, Lowe emailed Madison telling her his nephew had another uncle living in the southern Chinese town of Shenzhen; the son of Samuel Lowe and his Chinese wife.

Read the story on CNN


Mandarin STEaM Club – Breaking Bread!!

Our Mandarin STEaM Club allows our youth the opportunity to gain practical, team work and leadership skills. Additionally, their confidence and engagement in Mandarin improves as our Instructors lead them through exciting hands on experiences and language based discussions that encourage critical thinking. Mandarin STEaM Club also provides students with an opportunity to speak Mandarin outside of the classroom and in a fun and stimulating setting with their friends.

This year our curriculum has been designed by Gil Zamfirescu Pereira. Gil is the co-founder of Workshop Weekend. He previously lectured at Zhejiang University and Tianjin University of Technology in China, where he taught principles of business organization to university students at Zhejiang University and Tianjin University of Technology. Gil holds an S.B. degree in economics from MIT. He is a wonderful addition to our team.

Our Instructors to provide our youth with a solid foundation in their second language. It’s not a Mandarin Club if we don’t teach/review vocabulary. Our youth had a great start over viewing the language that will be used during today’s activities. The goal of our meeting was to explore 1) how yeast rises by baking bread from scratch, 2) engage in an experiment to see what makes yeast thrive, and 3) learn how to make butter from scratch and explore that process.


After reviewing the vocabulary they got to work making their dough and learning how the yeast makes the dough rise.


2016-10-09-16-01-45 2016-10-09-16-02-05Then it was time for the experiment. What factor is more likely to make yeast thrive – salt or sugar?

2016-10-09-16-25-52When it was time to make butter I think the crew was a little stir crazed and my big girl encouraged a sugar party to attempt to make whipped cream. So some parents went home with a container of sweet butter.

In the end we did end up with baked bread (425 degrees for 45 minutes). And yes it was very good.


Thank you to all of our parents, instructors, and Mandarin STEaM Club participants.


During next month’s STEaM activity: November 12 (3pm – 5pm) @ West Berkeley Public Library

Our little ones will build a simple car using DC motors, wheels, popsicles, a glue gun, and AA batteries. Students will put together a fully functioning mini-car, which they’ll be able to race against their friends. This project will teach the basics of electricity and circuits, and serve as a hands-on introduction to mechanical engineering!


(The competitive racing aspect would of course be optional.)






5 Interactive iPhone Apps to Help You Learn Chinese Faster

Learning a new language can be fun and interactive at the same time now that we have tons of platforms to use. You can learn Spanish, Portuguese or Chinese at home, at the beach or while in transit, anytime and anywhere.

Of course, depending on the language difficulty ranking – for example, Arabic, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin/Cantonese Chinese are categorised as “exceptionally difficult” for native English speakers – the students are required to spend more weeks or months (even years) mastering it.

Mandarin is one of the most difficult languages to learn, and if you wish to challenge yourself – to know the basics both in oral and written form – you can use these mobile apps to help you learn the language faster, whether you’re learning it all by yourself or already enrolled in a language program.

Chinese language mobile apps-Brainscape

The freemium app uses flash cards to teach you some of the basic Chinese words, grammar and phrases you need to know “to survive the streets of Beijing or Shanghai.” Brainscape offers other e-learning subjects aside from Chinese language. With the free “Survival Chinese” package, you’ll get four decks with 195 flashcards to drill you at your own pace by rating each flash card from 1 to 5 on how well you know the word(s).

The free “Business Chinese” subject teaches you basic terms about accounting, finance, marketing and other advanced terms, but the package doesn’t support audio for proper pronunciation. Meanwhile, the remaining Chinese subjects cost $9.99 each. (Free via App Store)

Chinese language mobile apps-Whizz

Whizz teaches you how to read and write Chinese in a systematic way, showing you symbols and characters to remember them right away. The learning method is called “space repetition,” and unlike Brainscape, the app sets a time limit to figure out the word or symbol.

The app shows you nine characters in flashcards, and then you type the English translation in the keyboard. Type faster for a perfect score. So, from reading to learning the system until you unlock the export mode, Whizz will make your Chinese lessons fun, engaging and challenging while on mobile. (Free via App Store)

Chinese language mobile apps-PenyoPals

Here’s another flashcard game to drill your memory with images, pronunciation, and symbols, which is ideal for kids and adults. The animation sets the mood to motivate you. Aside from learning Mandarin, it provides the pinyin, audio and visual presentation to help you memorize the words effectively.

Memorizing the characters can be frustrating because they almost look the same. The app makes it easier for learners to adapt to its method one step at a time. You will definitely love the animations that give you hints whether you’re correct or not. (Okay, now I know “mangguo” and “pingguo” by heart.) (Free via App Store)

Chinese language mobile apps-ChineseWriter

The freemium app teaches you the strokes of each character using a gameplay concept until you master each one and improve the time. The characters fall randomly from the top; you must be quick to draw each one to improve your score. Speed and focus are important in this gameplay, while if five characters reach the bottom, you’re out – a big kaboom flashes in front of your screen.

Wait, there’s more. Chinese Writer allows you to review the characters you already know and the characters you’ve failed to draw many times; the next time you play, it automatically pops them down until you master them. It also shows the pinyin, meaning of the character in English and pronunciation, while allowing you to practice the strokes. The app comes with in-app purchases to unlock other packages and characters, ranging from $0.99 to $9.99. (Free via App Store)

Chinese language mobile apps-ChineseWriter

Last but not the least, another animated and educational mobile app from MindSnacks makes your Chinese learning sprint fun using a game. You get a free lesson, and the rest are available as in-app purchases. The “Swell” game teaches you the Chinese numbers from 0 to 20, so you better be fast when you play the game. It shows the character and pinyin, then you have to choose between which of the two is the correct one.

Similar to Whizz and Chinese Writer, you only have a few seconds to figure things out; match the word before the water runs out or your fish dies. The game provides you the right answer as reference. Meanwhile, the “Galactic” game teaches you the tones. It’s using a rote method, so if you’re comfortable with the gameplay, you may purchase the other packs separately, ranging from $4.99 to $17.99. (Free via App Store)

Two of my favorites are the Chinese Writer and Brainscape. While these mobile apps can speed up our Chinese learning sprint, nothing beats real-life experience where we can converse with a native speaker who knows the nooks and crannies of the Chinese grammar, phrases and contexts.

5 Fun Summer Math Activities to Do With Your kids

summer mathSummer is a great time for math to enter your family life in a casual setting, without the stress of grades, homework, or commute. Use this time to fuel your child’s interest in math. Children like to mimic adults, so if you find a math-related activity you yourself enjoy, your children will soon join in. Below are some of our suggestions for car-related activities, adding a bit of educational spice to those long summer road trips.


  1. Have a competition: who can more accurately predict the exact time of arrival? Ditch your GPS for a bit and watch how competitive this game becomes. When did we start the trip? What’s the total distance, and how long have we been on the road? What part of the total distance is already covered? These are all questions your children will learn to ask themselves. Soon after you begin, everyone will predict a time, and the most accurate prediction wins! You can also modify the game and allow those who want to, to change their predictions half-way.
  2. Are you preparing for an outing? Ask for help deciding how much food you should take with you. Lead your children to ask the right questions. “If everyone will drink around 5 cups of water, and there are 10 of us, and, just in case, I want to have a gallon extra, how many gallon containers of water should we take with us?”
  3. Practice multiplication tables! Create a routine: for the first 2 minutes (and no more!) of every trip you take, review the table. Make sure to start with small numbers. In two minutes, you can ask 15 questions! If all answers are delivered within 5 seconds, your child wins!
  4. Observe the cars on the road. Tell your children, for example, that you think there are twice as many small cars on the road as large ones. Challenge them to check if you are right. How can they do it? For 1 minute, count the cars you pass, and see what the ratio is. You spotted 27 small cars and 10 large cars? This means that there probably are 3 times as many small cars as large ones.
  5. An easy solution for an activity is to store a book of math puzzles in your car. Chances are someone, bored on the road and with low battery on their ipad, will look through it. A few we suggest include:
    a. The Moscow Puzzles, by Boris Kordemsky
    b. Perplexing Puzzles and Tantalizing Teasers, Martin Gardner
    c. What is the name of this book?, Raymond Smullyan
    d. The Lady or the Tiger, Raymond Smullyan

Reposted from The Russian School.


Parent Survey: Assessing School Culture and Race at Chinese Immersion Schools

  • Equity and Inclusion Workshop
  • Brainstorming with Mandarin Immersion Administrators
  • Developing Collaboratives!

We need you to join our efforts to gather information around issues of equity and inclusion at Chinese Immersion school sites. Our findings will be presented at the National Chinese Language Conference in Chicago later this year – Building Partnerships with Underrepresented Populations @ Chinese Immersion School Sites.


We are looking for parents of all ethnic groups that have a child currently or recently enrolled at a Chinese Immersion school site to participate. The number of CI school sites in the U.S. is growing exponentially. And yet there are many components around equity and inclusion that require a different lens to better ensure that the students are receiving culturally competent curricula at CI school site. We are looking to document how schools are doing that well, where they have room to grow and what patterns exist on a national level.

This is the first of many surveys we will pose to families over the next few years so we will definitely be making updates and corrections over time to our surveys and the manner in which we are gathering information.

This information will be presented to teachers and administrators at the National Chinese Language Conference in Chicago. This will be our second time presenting our findings to the NCLC. We are also working closely with administrators here in the Bay Area in outlining tangible goals and outcomes to assist in the development of equitable and inclusive classrooms for all students at Chinese Immersion school sites. We want everyone to have a voice in this process.

WE NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU!! Each parent’s journey is different based on their school culture, geographic region, and school structure. Please take the lengthy 20 minutes to assist us by completing this survey.



What is a Two Way Immersion Program?

Two-way bilingual immersion (TWBI) programs are distinct in that they group English Language Learners from a single language background in the same classroom with Native English-speaking students, instruction is provided in both English and the minority language, both groups have the opportunity to acquire proficiency in a second language while continuing to develop their native language skills and students serve as native-speaker role models for their peers.

(TWBI) requires balanced numbers of native English speakers and native speakers of the partner language are integrated for instruction so that both groups of students serve in the role of language model and language learner at different times. The ideal ratio of English Language Learners (ELL) to Native English Speakers (NES) is 50:50, but to stay within the program design, the recommendation of many practitioners is that the ratio should never go below 33 percent for either language group. A school may however, under certain circumstances, choose to select a bilingual maintenance or heritage language model for developing bilingualism for this population.

The structure of TWBI programs vary, but they all provide at least 50% of instruction in the partner language at all grade levels beginning in pre-K, Kindergarten, or first grade and running at least five years (preferably through Grade 12). There are two common program models in California:

  1. 90/10: This “full immersion” program is found in two-way and developmental bilingual programs and the minority language is used most or all of the day in the primary grades (80-90%). Foreign-language (one-way) immersion programs that implement the full immersion program often use the minority language for 100% of subject matter instruction. Percentage of non-English instruction decreases annually until both English and the target language are used equally. This has been the most common method utilized in California.[source].
  2. 50/50: Both English and the target language are used 50 percent of the time during the entire program.

In both models, instruction is delivered in and through the two languages; however, only one language at a time. Two-way bilingual immersion programs combine a maintenance bilingual education with a foreign language immersion model and minimally last from five to seven years.

TWBI has proven the most successful of all dual language programs as TWBI emphasizes the need to have language models of both the Minority (English Language Learner) and Majority Languages (Native English Speakers), learning side-by-side in the classroom for the majority of the day[source].

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