Twenty-three students from the Han Herreders Ungdomsskole in Denmark visited Harlan High School on April 8 along with the school’s principal, Jens Sørensen, and English teachers Kristine Ingemann and Nicolaj Rasmussen.
The students, who are in the equivalent of ninth and tenth grades, were in the United States for an immersion experience in English based at Berea College.
The day before coming to Harlan, they visited the state capitol in Frankfort and met Gov. SteveBeshear. After spending the morning at Harlan High School, they headed to the Tri-Cities to see the Coal Mining Museum and meet storyteller Pam Holcomb.
The Harlan visit originated through the school’s relationship with one of the Berea organizers, folk artist Jennifer Rose Escobar.
The HHU students were hosted at HHS by members of the high school gifted leadership program. After being welcomed as a group in the gym by Yin Chen, Kaitlin Jenkins, Holly Hatfield and Principal Britt Lawson, they were divided into smaller groups.
The first group went on a tour of the school with tour guides Will Slusher, Corey Burns, Ethan Morton, Austin Wilson, Camille Browning, Cory Chorak, Jessica Phan and Stephen Jones.
The second group saw a photo presentation of life at HHS led by Jourdan Ledford, Katie King and Alyssa Mills followed by an intercultural discussion. After the first session, the groups swapped out so that everyone got to take part in both activities.
Local folklorists Darla Jackson and Thelma Haley also spoke to the Danes and leadership students about Harlan County culture in the auditorium. Jackson also taught the group a Cherokee dance.
The morning ended with a flurry of camera activity and the swapping of Twitter and Facebook information.
Journalism teacher Shawn Doss provided the group with several copies of last year’s annual to take home. The English teachers were delighted to receive this authentic American cultural artifact they can use with their classes.
During the tour, Will Slusher informed each group that most of the cars parked on Central Street were the students’. The Danes were amazed by this. In Denmark, you have to be 18 years old to obtain a driver’s license and attend special training first. The cost is around a $1,000 to get a license. Students said they typically get around by bike or bus or on foot.
Spanish teacher Sandy Wilson asked one of the tour groups what languages they had studied. In addition to English, most had taken German though at least one had had Spanish. They typically begin their study of English in elementary school.
The tenth grade in Denmark is a transitional grade which students can use to figure out what they want to do next.
Han Herreders is a private boarding school that receives public funding. Students attend class half a day and have extracurricular activities the other half. Sports is a major emphasis at this particular school. Gymnastics and handball are among the sports available. The Danes explained how the latter is played as it is not something Harlan students are familiar with. Some of our students explained the mechanics of the NCAA tournament to them.