- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—From virtual immersion to actual immersion, the Chinese high school students visiting Butte on Monday got a real taste of America.

Vegetation monitoring and stream sampling took up much of the teens’ time early on.

But by mid-morning, the college-bound students toured the Mai Wah Museum and the Emma Park pavilion.

Then it was back to the field to study three natural restoration sites in Butte.

The students are in Montana as part of the Yellowstone English Environmental Studies Program International, an Ennis-based company.

The program objectives are multi-faceted, according to president Sam Korsmoe, who splits his time between Ennis and Shanghai, China.

YESPI gives students an introduction to environmental science, leadership tactics, Socratic study methods and an overview of English communication studies, language and testing procedures.

The goal is to make students college-ready for school abroad, as most English immersion graduates attend college overseas, said Francis Huang, a Penn State graduate and former New Yorker who has interned for Korsmoe.

“It’s a way for these students to start out when their Chinese companions cannot,” said Huang, hanging with the group on Monday. “We’re using Yellowstone as sort of a hook. In China, everybody gets it.”

Yellowstone, that is. College-bound students may not know about Montana Tech and its high placement rate for graduating engineers, but most Chinese recognize Yellowstone Park when they hear it.

Besides the Butte historical tour and Tech visits, YESPI summer programs encompass 21 days of study all around the state.

Led by Pat Munday, Montana Tech professor, the group got a riparian lesson on Monday. They toured a mining and smelting site north of Butte, the West Side Superfund site to test soil and the former Alice Dump that has been cleaned up in Walkerville.

Munday said they’re a bit overwhelmed.

“On the other hand, when we’re out in the field, they ask some good questions.”

Before the tour is over, students will have visited Hebgen Lake near Yellowstone, volunteered at the Madison Marathon, whitewater rafted on the Gallatin River and gathered firewood in true Montana fashion.

They will ride horseback in Virginia City, backpack in the Tobacco Root Mountains, tour the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, visit the Rocky Boy Reservation and Pow Wow and visit the Sweet Pea Festival in Bozeman, among other activities.

The tour ends with a final research project in Yellowstone.

“It’s an extraordinary busy 21 days,” said Korsmoe. “We’re hoping an experience like this helps them stand out.”

The program veers from the Chinese mandate for rigorous testing in order to admit college students. It gives students real-life, hands-on experiences not found in the classroom.

“They need to get ready and make their college applications stronger,” added Korsmoe. “It’s not all about testing.”

The China education system is ultra-competitive, but Huang said the Montana tour opens students’ eyes to colleges other than the “brand-name” Stanfords, Yales and other elite universities.

“Otherwise, schools like Tech are not on their radar,” Huang added.

On Tuesday, the group measures vegetation and samples bugs out of Silver Bow Creek, said Munday, also serving as historical and cultural guide along with Korsmoe, Huang and recent MSU graduate Allison McCuskey, who works for Korsmoe.

“Everything has gone smoothly so far,” said McCuskey, who graduated in global studies with a Chinese minor.


(c)2015 The Montana Standard (Butte, Mont.)

Visit The Montana Standard (Butte, Mont.) at www.mtstandard.com

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