With a trip to China nearing, Madison Consolidated Schools Superintendent Ginger Studebaker-Bolinger is working on her Mandarin.

"'Shyea shyea.' That means thank you," she said. "That's the only word I know so far, but I've been practicing."

Bolinger is one of eight Indiana school superintendents who will travel to China to meet with school officials and administrators in Shanghai and Beijing.

The goal of the trip, Bolinger said, is to establish relationships with schools in China, to learn how they incorporate technology in education and to teach them how we educate our children.

"We'll be very busy," she said. "What I've tried to say is that this is not a vacation. This is a trip. This is a mission trip. Mission, in terms of really understanding their educational use of technology and then explaining our educational system and use of technology."

In addition to traveling to Shanghai and Beijing, Bolinger will also travel to Taizhou to meet with three sister schools that are being established with the state visit.

Jiaojiang Number 5 Middle School is partnering with Madison Junior High School, Linhai Number 5 Middle School is partnering with E.O. Muncie Elementary School and Huangyan Experimental Elementary School will partner with Lydia Middleton Elementary School.

Bolinger said she will encourage the relationship between the schools.

"I'll be meeting officials at the schools, discussing what a partnership might look like. Whether that's correspondence via the Internet, it might mean travel between school officials and the teachers, it could be a variety of things," she said. "It could mean any number of things."

Art classes at E.O. Muncie, Lydia Middleton and the junior high school have been preparing gifts for their partnership schools that Bolinger will be able to present to her hosts at the sister schools.

One of the classes created postcards, Bolinger said, with images of Madison on one side to be used as correspondence between the two schools.

From what she's learned at informational meetings leading up to the trip, Bolinger said the education system in China is quite different from the system in the United States.

"Their classrooms are often much larger in size. They indicated it could be anywhere from 35 to 75 in a classroom based on their level or the city or the school system," she said.

Along the trip, groups of superintendents will give presentations to school officials covering a variety of topics about teaching in America.

"My topic that I will be speaking on is going to be teaching, cooperation, creating creativity and independence. That is something of interest in China because that's not how they currently (teach). They're struggling to make that happen, and we've been doing that for quite some time."

Bolinger said much of the instruction in China is similar to how students used to be taught in America. It was based on memorization and not problem solving, she said.

Knowing what interests children, Bolinger said, is a good way to help teach them to be creative and helps them become independent learners.

"There's also a term called 'scaffolding the learning' and that means making sure that we are reaching the children where they are and moving them forward with skills and knowledge as they're prepared for it."

The trip, Bolinger said, is also the start of what she hopes is more of a norm for MCS.

The school district received a technology grant last year. Part of the reason the school received the grant was to help facilitate a global understanding.

"My goal is to look at how they teach and use technology and see what we can learn from them."

Bolinger leaves Thursday.