From China to the Mississippi
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The Mississippi River, which holds such an important place in North America’s geography, ecology, and culture, is also helping build bridges between the United States and China.
On July 23, some of China’s finest high school students visited the Lucille A. Carver Mississippi Riverside Environmental Research Station (LACMRERS) near Muscatine, Iowa, to learn about the Mississippi. IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, a unit of the UI College of Engineering, operates the research station.
The students are spending 18 days visiting three states as part of Rivers as Bridges, an international exchange program sponsored by Environment and Public Health Network for Chinese Students and Scholars (ENCSS).
“It’s a fairly intensive program. It’s quite competitive,”says Xiaodong Kuang, executive vice president of ENCSS.
The Rivers as Bridges program includes a rigorous educational curriculum. “Every day, they’re basically in a mobile classroom,” says curriculum director Jack Palmer.
The students arrived at the station on a blisteringly hot July day. Doug Schnoebelen, director of the research station, led them through exercises examining sediment cores and learning about the pH of various fluids, including Coca-Cola, tap water, and river water.
“[There are] no wrong answers,” Schnoebelen told the students. “Have fun.”
IIHR postdoctoral research scholar Carrie Davis showed the students how to compare the quality of river water with water in a nearby pond. Later, the students enjoyed a picnic lunch and boat rides on the Mississippi. They also got a chance to meet Herky, the UI’s popular mascot, and to speak with a UI admission counselor.
Yonyi Shi, a 16-year-old student from Xian, China, said she was enjoying her visit to the United States. Back home in China, she had studied U.S. culture, and was now experiencing it firsthand.
“I like the education and the environment; I just feel comfortable here,” Shi said, adding that she found the Mississippi River “very beautiful.”
Kuang says ENCSS is beginning a 10-year initiative to connect students, businesses, and others in China with their counterparts in the United States and elsewhere, with the goal of improving the environment and public health. Kuang adds that the exchange also celebrates the anniversary of U.S. President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972 with a new era of collaboration and friendship between the two nations.