Cross-cultural exchange impacts Michigan youth

Approximately 6,000 Michigan children in grades K–6 participated in the 2010 Michigan 4-H Children’s Art Exchange with China. Of that number, seventy art pieces were selected to send to China as a gift to the children of China in Shandong Province. Chinese children sent 120 art pieces to Michigan to conclude the exchange.

 You can view the 2010 Michigan children’s artwork sent to China on the 4-H website at

 For the exchange, Michigan and Chinese children are asked to create “visual letters” (paintings or drawings) of something important in their lives that they would like to share with children of the same age living halfway around the world. Visual letters become the means to communicate across language barriers. The themes and desire for connection are similar regardless of country and culture.

 Educators working with 5,067 Michigan children in 24 counties reported that 98 percent of the children increased awareness that art communicates ideas, feelings and stories as a result of their participation in this program. And 100 percent of the children gained new knowledge about China, increased awareness that there are similarities between themselves and Chinese children and expressed a desire to learn more about the children and their country.

 An exhibit funded by the MSU Asian Studies Center currently at the MSU Museum displays select pieces of Chinese children’s artwork from the 2010 exchange. The museum anticipates around 12,500 visitors for the duration of the exhibit, which runs Feb. 1 to March 31, 2011. For more information, visit

 Jan Brinn, Michigan State University Extension 4-H educator in Allegan County, and Betsy Knox, 4-H program leader and coordinator for the Michigan 4-H Art Exchange, co-presented a seminar “Global Education Through Art” at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA) 2010 conference Oct 24–28 in Phoenix, Ariz. The seminar focused on the Michigan 4-H Children’s Art Exchange.

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