Michigan 4-H Children’s Art Exchange with China has a new partner in 2024

Michigan 4-H has a new Childrens’ Art Exchange partner with the Lujiang New Town Elementary School of Xiamen (Xiamen Lujiang Xincheng Primary School).

A Chinese girl holding up a piece of art.
An excited participant, Yanjia Li from Beijing Normal University, enjoying an art piece created by a Chinese youth of her hometown in Xiamen.

Through the Michigan 4-H Children’s Visual Letter Art Exchange program, children are asked to paint or draw visual letters for children their own ages across the globe. A visual letter is like a written letter, in that both tell stories, share important ideas and feelings, and connect children regardless of where they live. The medium is different from a pen pal program in that visual letters use images to overcome language barriers while written letters use words.

Michigan 4-H has been exchanging visual letters successfully with the Shandong Province, Peoples Republic of China, for over 30 years. In 2024, Michigan 4-H has added a new Xiamen partner that they hope to partner with for another 30 years! Michigan 4-H is working with Lujiang New Town Elementary School in Xiamen, China. The partnership has been established with the assistance of Luna Lu, senior innovation officer for MSU Global Youth Advancement Network (GYAN) and Yanjiang Teng, program coordinator for Visiting International Professional Program (VIPP) and the Office of China Programs.

4. Janis Brinn.jpg
Janis Brinn talking with participants about the stories they see being told in the Chinese children’s art.

(厦门市鹭江新城小学) Lujiang New Town Elementary School is located in the beautiful coastal city Xiamen in southeast China. The school is young and was established in 2002, with 34 classes, approximately 2,000 students and 98 faculties. In the past 20 years, the school has been awarded many honors and keeps reaching new achievements with the efforts from both faculties and students. Besides being awarded the Prize for High Teaching Quality in Xiamen City for five consecutive years, the school also pays much attention to the education of arts and scientific technology. This commitment has borne fruit, with students’ earning recognition and accolades in various artistic endeavors. The drawing named You and Me by the school’s student Shen Hongyin, was once exhibited in the Embracing Our Difference art show in Sarasota, Florida.

Lujiang New Town Elementary School holds the art exchange program in high regard. Students, teachers and parents are deeply enthusiastic about participating in the art exchange program, viewing it as an invaluable opportunity to broaden their cultural perspectives and foster artistic connections. The school believes that such exchanges contribute significantly to the holistic development of students, nurturing their creativity and global awareness.

2. Yanjiang Teng.jpeg
Yanjiang Teng, program coordinator for the Visiting International Professional Program and Office of China Programs at Michigan State University, receiving the Spartan Chinese School participation certificate from MSU Extension Educator and 4-H China Art Coordinator Janis Brinn.

Yanjiang Teng, the lead contact with the Lujiang New Town Elementary School of Xiamen, is also the MSU Spartan Chinese School principal. The school had an art exhibit that was held in December 2023, unveiling the newly received art from Xiamen. The Xiamen Lujiang Xincheng Primary School selected the top 100 paintings to be shipped to the U.S., with 300 Chinese children participating in total. The art event was a great success with over 100 participants present to enjoy the MSU Spartan School children’s art and the artwork received from the new Chinese partners. The Michigan 4-H China Dance kit and one of the art kits created over 30 years ago with the former Michigan 4-H Childrens Art Exchange partner was displayed as well at the event.  This was a great addition as participants got to compare the new art with the old as they learned from it. One individual commented on how the panda seemed to still be popular to draw.  Another person had her picture taken with one of the new pieces as she was so excited that it was of her hometown.

The youth visual letter art exchange initiative aims to cultivate cultural understanding and encourage appreciation of similarities and differences in the way of life between the countries. Other youth visual letter art exchange pilot programs have been started between Michigan 4-H and Argentina 4-H, Taiwan 4-H, Canada 4-H, Japan, Poland and Michigan counties. The program will continue to expand with pilots being explored in Benin, Brazil, India, Jamaica, New Guinee, Norway, South Africa, Uganda, and other U.S. states including Alaska, Kentucky, New Jersey, Texas and more! Global and cultural learning will continue to grow with youth connecting around the world without traveling.

3. Spartan Chinese School particpants.jpg
Spartan Chinese School participant’s viewing of the beautiful art received.

If you would like to know more about the visual letter programs, check out the Michigan State University Extension 4-H resource web page. You may also enjoy the grab-n-go “Crafts Around the World” series. For more information, contact Janis Brinn, MSU Extension educator and coordinator of the 4-H Visual Letter Art Exchange Programs.   

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to prepare youth as positive and engaged leaders and global citizens by providing educational experiences and resources for youth interested in developing knowledge and skills in these areas. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

1. Luna Lu.jpg
Luna Lu, senior innovation officer with the Global Youth Advancement Network at Michigan State University, with artwork received from the Xiamen Lujiang Xincheng Primary School.

Did you find this article useful?