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Rivers as Bridges

Doug Schnoebelen takes the Chinese students for a boat ride on the Mississippi.

Doug Schnoebelen takes the Chinese students for a boat ride on the Mississippi.

The Mississippi River, which holds such an important place in North America’s geography, ecology, and culture, is helping build bridges between the United States and China.

For the second year in a row, the Lucille A. Carver Mississippi Riverside Environmental Research Station (LACMRERS) welcomed some of China’s finest high school students, who had come to learn about the Mississippi River. The students spent almost two weeks visiting three states (Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois) as part of “Rivers as Bridges,” an international exchange program sponsored by Environment and Public Health Network for Chinese Students and Scholars (ENCSS).

LACMRERS is set near Muscatine, which has a special significance in U.S.-China relations. Last year, Muscatine received Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, who had visited the community decades earlier as a student. This is where the vice president told Iowans, “To me, you are America.”

The students arrived at LACMRERS, which is operated by IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, a unit of the University of Iowa College of Engineering, on July 24. The Rivers as Bridges program includes a rigorous educational curriculum. “Every day, they’re basically in a mobile classroom,” said Curriculum Director Jack Palmer. It is considered an honor to be a part of the group.

At LACMRERS, researchers had prepared hands-on science activities to help the students get acquainted with river. Later, the students enjoyed a picnic lunch and boat rides on the Mississippi. They also got a chance to speak with a UI admission counselor.

A Mississippi River turtle makes new friends.

A Mississippi River turtle makes new friends.

“The United States is very beautiful,” said Zon “Steven” Yudong, one of the visiting Chinese students. “I wanted to study more about American knowledge and culture. … This experience has encouraged me to study hard.”

Oscar Hernandez shows the Chinese students a core sample taken from the Mississippi riverbed.

Oscar Hernandez shows the Chinese students a core sample taken from the Mississippi riverbed.

Chinese students come to the United States with impressions based on American TV and movies, said student Guo Yu. She was surprised by the beauty of the landscape, especially the blue sky and white clouds. She said she had already learned much on her visit: “The Mississippi and Yangtze have the same problems,” she said, adding that we should all “pay attention to the environment more.”

ENCSS is a 10-year initiative designed 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. 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.

To learn more about LACMRERS, visit www.iihr.uiowa.edu/lacmrers; to explore the Rivers as Bridges program, visit www.riversasbridges.org.

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Last modified on June 19th, 2015
Posted on August 19th, 2013

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