Impact Project

I currently teach fifth grade humanities. What this means is that the subjects that are covered are numerous, they overlap, they collide, and they require students to ponder and question. They examine global history from the 1400’s to 1865, and learn to write, read and understand nuances of language. They also take part in a service learning component called an Impact Project.

Learning About the Issues

This year I decided to challenge my fifth graders (9 – 11 yrs old) to take a deeper look at issues facing our world. I want them to become experts and find ways to implement solutions. My hope is that they will dive in, explore and find a way to make a positive difference. But first, they needed to get an idea of what is considered a ‘big issue.’ So over the course of several weeks we exploerd six big topics: endangered animals, climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, plastic pollution and education disparity. The students have watched clips of videos and TED talks, analyzed articles, participated in simulations and held roundtable discussions. They are now beginning their independent work. Over the course of the next nine weeks they will research and explore their issue. There are benchmark check-ins to discuss challenges and frustrations with me. They will also be blogging (internally) and learning to podcast. In December they will present their findings and a proposal for how they plan to make an impact. Then January through May they will implement (so exciting!). In late May, after writing a persuasive essay on their topic, they will then present their topic, TED Talk style, to parents and administrators explaining the outcome of their project and impact.

Making an Impact Close to Home

Hands on WallTo give them a taste of giving back here at home, I introduced them to a public school about 20 minutes down the road. This school has a population made up of primarily new immigrants. They speak Farsi, Dari, Ukranian, Russian, Spanish and others. Even though many speak limited English, I thought it would be fun to start a pen pal exchange. And while we were at it, a Gently Used Clothing Drive. My students were so excited to not only be able to help, but to also reach out and start a conversation. A week ago we took our gently used clothes and headed over to the other school, and met our new friends.

After eating lunch together we pushed up our sleeves and started putting hands in paint and soon a colorful wall of friendship emerged. A bit chaotic, but I saw lots of smiles. Over the rest of the year, the students will exchange letters with their pen pals and then in May we’ll have the kids come to our school for a field day of fun games.

Impact Project

While discussing one of the big issues, ‘why girls have Educate Girls 4 Successmore barriers to education than boys in many countries around the world,’ one of my female students asked a very innocent, yet difficult to answer, question. We had just watched a short video clip “Why Educate Girls?” and she raised her hand and asked, “Why aren’t girls going to school? We are just as smart and capable as boys.” So matter-of-fact, with zero hesitation. At first I struggled to find an answer that was appropriate for a class of ten year olds. I stumbled and grasped at ideas as I tried to rationalize the issue. Finally, it dawned on me that this was exactly what I was hoping they would ponder – these questions that are so difficult to answer. So, I threw it back to the class. “Why do you think there is education disparity?”

At first there was a lot of, “Well, because…” and then their voices would trail off. It was hard to come up with a legitemate argument. But eventually there were some responses around religions or cultural customs or physical strength etc. It’s a tough question.

I know many of the questions they will ask will be unanswerable, no matter what the topic of focus. But my hope is that even without an exact answer, they are inspired to make positive change, to take action and make their voices heard.

Educate Girls

Interested in helping girls get an education? Here are four, of many, amazing organizations you can support:

Impact
Red Sweater Project: www.redsweaterproject.org Friends of Pimpollo: http://friendsofpimpollo.org/ Educate Girls: https://www.educategirls.ngo/ One Girl: https://www.onegirl.org.au/

 

New Life, New School

Grand Opening is just three days away! The Yew Wah International Education School officially opens its doors to students on September 18.  But since the campus isn’t really ready for us to occupy it, we will be hosting an activity camp at the Sheraton resort just down the road for the first two days.  Here is a rendering of what the school will look like when completed:

YWIES DrawingOnly 6 of those buildings are in progress, but phase II starts this fall.  Eventually this school will have 2000 students from K – 12.  The tall buildings in the back (right) will be staff accommodations and student housing.  This year we are starting with 150 students from K – 10.  My classes have the following numbers of students:

6th: 25
7th: 9
8th: 4
9th: 9
10th: 10

So the challenge will be how to best teach such small groups.  I’m used to 30 in a class.

We still have not been able to get into our classrooms and we are all anxious to get started.  It has been a long month working out of a conference room.  There have been many hiccups, last minute changes, complete gaffs etc.  But I am so happy to say that this new staff has taken everything in stride.  Yes, we are sick of the conference room.  Yes, we are sick of sitting and not teaching.  But, we know each other really well now.  🙂

I have planned my first three units for each class and created the daily lessons for the first unit for each class.  I’m feeling well prepared on my end.  I have purposefully not gone any further as I do not know the level of students I am getting.  I don’t know their English level, nor if they have had any humanities or geography.  So the first week will be very much centered around understanding the knowledge and skill base the kids are starting the year with.

On Friday a few of us went shopping for items for our classrooms.  We had placed our requests the week before and someone was to have scouted out where we could find our items.  Then we were told we would go to two or three stores, check the products and make orders.  The gals would then pay for them and they would arrive at the school by Monday (tomorrow).

Instead, we jumped off the van in old town Huadu and spent three sticky and exhausting hours trying to find anything that might work in the dust filled piles of warehouse type shops.

Shopping Collage
Photos taken with my iPhone 4s

Needless to say there was very little for humanities.  I did find one, very dusty globe in a stationary store.  So I have resorted to ordering online and crossing my fingers that my atlases etc. arrive before Monday, September 22 – the day we really start school.

Tomorrow we start rehearsing, at the school, the opening day celebrations.  At least we get to be on campus.

Besides school preparations, I have been riding my bike around town.  Cruised around Huadu lake.  It is quite huge and full of statues and leisure stations (snack bars).

Huadu Lake 2 Huadu Lake Sun Statue

I have now ventured via the train, into Guangzhou.  It took us an hour to get there.  But the trains are really clean and efficient  and thankfully air conditioned.

There is construction going on everywhere.  Huge buildings with at least 50 stories.

TV Tower & Dwntown
The pointed building in the distance is the TV tower that lights up in lots of colors at night.

 

Street Music Man Metro Map

 

The days are flying by.  I am really excited to meet my students.  And I am excited about my crazy classes.  I had to align the Chinese national curriculum with the national curriculum of the UK.  There was a basic outline for what the Chinese felt I should cover.  Other than that, it was up to me to cover all the required standards and create classes that made some sort of sense.

So here is what I created – don’t laugh or groan.  I know they don’t seem to flow, but it was hard to get everything required into these classes.

Units Y6 - Y10

EOTC stands for Education Outside the Classroom.  We’ll be heading to a village community and doing a community project.  In Y6 Ancient Civilization was given only 3 weeks in the Chinese curriculum.  I gave it 14 weeks.  Its going to be challenging to cover everything, but the projects they’ll be working on will hopefully lend to broader understanding.

It continues to be super hot and sticky here.  I almost stepped on this guy as I was walking through the forest part of our apartment complex.  He was about 5 inches long and moving fast!

 

Slug

 

I ventured back into RT Mart.  This time, 9am on a Saturday morning.  This is definitely the preferred time to shop, for me that is.  Easy and relaxed.  I had a chuckle when I came across an aisle dedicated to instant noodles.

Instant Noodle Aisle

But then I headed over to my wonderful covered, outdoor market.  Such happy, smiling people.  They love teaching me how to say the numbers (ie. cost of items).  Although hot and sticky, so much more enjoyable.

Market

Crabs
Crabs! Some were still twitching.

So another week has flown by.  I am so excited for what is about to begin.  I promise to take loads of photos.  We have been warned against posting any photos of our students, so I will try to capture the essence of the events without exposing the kids.

Also, sorry about the lack of quality of the photos, in this post all have been taken with my iPhone 4s.  The ones of Huadu Lake were as I was pedaling along.

Have a great week!

Gretchen