As they prepared for spring break, students and teachers at Hayes Intermediate School welcomed a group of visitors who were welcoming the start of spring a long way from home.

The school played host to three teachers and 11 students from the Taoist Ching Chung Primary School in Hong Kong March 18-22.

It marks the second year a delegation from Taoist Ching Chung has visited the Grove City school.

The intermediate grade level is an ideal age group to have visitors from another land, Hayes Principal Michael Nesler said.

"At this age, students are beginning to develop a world perspective," he said. "They're growing more curious about places and people that are outside their own part of the world."

What Hayes students -- and their counterparts from Hong Kong -- were learning during the week is their interests are much the same, yet different, said Melissa Ewing, a gifted-intervention specialist at Hayes who helped coordinate the visit.

"Both sets of students are really into video games, but the games the students play in Hong Kong are different from the ones our kids play," she said. "They all love sports, but the sports they follow are different."

It's the chance to learn about another culture that makes the visit so valuable for both sets of students, Ewing said.

The Hong Kong delegation arrived March 18, and the school played host to a skating party to kick off the week's activities, Nesler said.

For the next three days, the Hong Kong students and teachers were immersed in what was occurring in Hayes classrooms, he said.

The visiting teachers offered lessons regarding the culture, food and traditions of Hong Kong and explained how their students' home and school lives differ from that of Americans, he said.

Hayes students participated in projects to create Chinese craft items, including a fan.

On their last day at the school, the visitors joined Hayes students on a field trip to COSI.

During their visit, the students and teachers stayed with Hayes families, Ewing said.

That's where the real cultural exchange occurs, she said.

"They get to experience American life outside the classroom, and our students have a chance to build a bond with their guests," Ewing said. "It's amazing to me how quickly the students turn into friends."

Billy Situ, 11, spent his week staying with Hayes sixth-grader Brody Willis and his family.

Billy said he quickly envied Brody for both his breakfast options and his school building.

"I've been having eggs and sausage for breakfast, and it's so delicious to eat," he said.

"He told me what he usually has for breakfast is rice and noodles," Brody said.

"The school here is so short," Billy said. "My school back home is really tall -- it has a lot of floors because the city is so crowded.

"You don't have to walk so much to get to class," he said. "At my school, going up and down the stairs to get to class, I'm tired."

Brody said he was learning that things he takes for granted are special to his new friend.

"We were driving in our car and when he saw ducks crossing the roadway, he got really excited," he said.

"I was really surprised to see animals in the road and all of the birds you can see," Billy said. "In Hong Kong, there aren't many animals around."

"I've found out that people in Hong Kong live in smaller houses than we have," Brody said. "We have a lot more room to live in. It's giving me some perspective about things."

During his visit, Billy also got his first experience with a small amount of snow.

"I tasted some and it tasted like cold water," Billy said. "It was good."

While students in Hong Kong learn English, the visit to America gave him a chance to put what he had learned into practice, he said.

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