Sustainability and the Environment: Raising Global Citizens

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At the end of April, Years 6-8, their parents and teachers gathered in the Auditorium at Yew Chung International School of Beijing to celebrate Earth Day. Earth Day is an annual worldwide event to recognise environmental issues that are facing our planet.  

In recognition of this important day, our Y6-8s presented the work that they have been covering in their “Sustainability and the Environment” topic. They showcased a great range of work across their subjects that covered important areas such as waste and energy.

 We speak to Mrs Alana Martin, Y6-8 Learning Community Leader, about the day and some of the fantastic outcomes.

Tell us more about Earth Day and the projects that were on show


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Earth Day was the culmination of two months of work for our students. They began the Sustainability and the Environment topic at the end of February and have since been exploring the implications of this concept across their subjects. For example, in Science they have explored sources of renewable energy; in English they have been examining reports and documentaries; in DT, they’ve been building items with reclaimed and upcycled materials; in Performing Arts they’ve been exploring the ways in which drama can educate society to make a change.

Students were then asked to complete a series of projects according to their subjects that they could present at Earth Day to teachers, peers and parents. Research was carried out in lessons with teacher guidance, but we ensured that students also had the opportunity to carry out independent research, enabling them to take ownership of their work and explore areas of particular interest to them.

Our students then had the freedom to present their work at Earth Day in all sorts of ways – there were models, movies, PowerPoints, animations, posters and flyers. They demonstrated a lot of creativity in the presentation of their ideas and research, with results that were powerful and informative in equal measure.

Why do we carry out project-based learning at YCIS Beijing?


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It’s important to allow students to have a voice in their academic work – rather than being spoon-fed information. Seeing a project through to completion takes a lot of careful planning and problem solving, and results in a deeper investment in and understanding of the subject. It also introduces students to the independent learning they will undertake during coursework for IGCSEs and beyond.

What are the benefits of teaching subjects according to concepts, such as Sustainability and the Environment?

It’s one of the things that makes the education model at YCIS Beijing quite unique. Throughout the year, we teach all our subjects in accordance to six concepts (others include Identity and Perspectives, Power and Conflict, Tradition and Culture, Change and the Future). This allows the students to draw links between disciplines and recognise overlap. It also provides them with a far more in-depth and nuanced understanding of the issues at hand. To understand a concept as broad as Sustainability and the Environment, you really need to show students that there are scientific concerns and there are social and cultural concerns. In doing so, you paint a bigger picture and enrich their understanding.

How has the Learning Community model aided teaching this topic?


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There are lots of ways that our Learning Communities have positively impacted on learning at YCIS Beijing. There are particular benefits to the Year 6s, as the youngest, to be able to take part in the same projects as older year groups. Being exposed to older children’s more advanced work and lessons really raises the level of the Year 6s. That’s always great to see.

What has been the most memorable part of teaching Sustainability and the Environment this year?

As part of the concept, we asked our year groups to consider the ways in which our school impacts on the environment, and identify areas for improvement. Amongst these, students looked at our paper usage and food waste.

Mr Noel Thomas, our Co-principal, was so impressed by their work that he invited some of the students to present their findings and recommendations to the Senior Leadership Team!

In addition, for the first time we are sending three Year 6 students and one Year 7 to Tianjin next Friday to compete in the American Chamber of Commerce’s Tianjin Recycling/educational Challenge (TReC). This is a competition for leading international schools, at which our students will have a chance to present on their environmental initiatives around school. It’s a brilliant outcome – and a direct result of our Sustainability concept.

My hope for this whole project is that students feel empowered by their work, and understand the relevance of what they are studying in the real world. Ultimately, this concept feeds into our endeavour at YCIS Beijing to raise Global Citizens – and I do feel that the way that we have explored this concept has filled our students with a very strong understanding of the importance of living sustainably and protecting our environment for future generations.

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