School in the Park: Beijing’s Autumnal Classroom
Midway through October, Beijing now enters one of its most beautiful seasons of the year. The air is crisp and cool. The leaves are turning to a rich shade of gold. The skies are clean and clear. At this time of year, it’s important to take a moment away from smart phones and tablets and to appreciate the beauty and benefits that nature provides.
Luckily, for students at Yew Chung International School of Beijing, there are ample opportunities to go outside into nature as an extension of the classroom. Located adjacent to Honglingjin Park, teachers regularly utilize the open, natural spaces to supplement classroom lessons.
To offer ideas to get back into nature and to make educational use of your own neighborhood park, YCIS Beijing teachers share below some recent nature-based lessons that got their students outside and active, and appreciating their autumnal classroom.
Living Language Lessons
The goal of speaking a language is to be able to communicate with and understand other people. This seems obvious, but oftentimes in a classroom setting students aren’t able to have an authentic experience with a target language because textbooks are limited in scope. In a truly immersive setting, however, there are more unknowns for which students need to prepare.
Being next to Honglingjin Park gives Chinese teachers a wonderful opportunity to take the classroom outside as a way to enhance language lessons. Students can interview and have conversations with elderly locals, and in doing so, they must account for changes in speakers’ accents, in culture, and of course in the unpredictability of the answer they receive. The local park-goers are often not in a rush so they have plenty of time to sit with students and answer their questions.
In addition to practicing language, it also gives students the chance to build their cultural knowledge – interacting in a real Chinese context – and reinforces the school’s Character Education Programme. During their interaction with locals, students also focus on helping the elderly feel appreciated and listened to. Students express a genuine and sincere interest in the interviewee and make them feel valued. This reinforces YCIS Beijing’s image in the community as a caring school, focused on creating good citizens. Utilizing the park for this purpose is invaluable.
Flying Kites and Bagging Beetles
Through YCIS Beijing’s commitment to Learning Communities, teachers understand the incredible impact that the learning environment has on a student’s ability to focus and learn. Primary classes also make regular use of Honglingjin Park to augment classroom lessons.
Year 2 students completed a science lesson with YCIS Beijing’s Scientist-in-Residence, Jacob Wickham, during which they made bug traps to collect beetles in the park. Using simple materials from home, students made the traps and then hung them up in trees overnight. The next day they were able to collect and study the beetles in a lesson far more fun and engaging than if from a textbook alone.
Students in Year 5 meanwhile used the park as a part of their Chinese culture lesson on traditional Chinese kites. Visited by a famous local kite-maker, students first learned of the history of kite flying in China and of its importance to Chinese cultural heritage. Students then painted their own kites before heading out into Honglingjin Park to experience the challenges and thrills of kite-flying first hand.
At YCIS Beijing, Character Education is a central part of the school’s curriculum and educational ethos. Preparing students for life after graduation requires more than simply supplying them with knowledge, but it’s also essential for students to become well-balanced and resilient. Through learning positive character traits such as empathy, honesty and determination, students are able to excel in and make a positive impact on the world.
One character education trait that Secondary students have recently focused on was to explore environmental stewardship through care and maintenance of the park by venturing outside with rakes, brooms and trash bags to clean and beautiful the environment. But as good stewards also show respect and responsibility towards the land, plants, animals and people, stewardship helps students to value taking care of themselves and of their families as well. The lesson in the park can then translate and extend to other areas of students’ lives.
To learn more about YCIS Beijing, and the programmes on offer for ECE kindergarten, Primary and Secondary students, please contact our admission team today.