I was lucky enough to be chosen as a chaperone for a school trip to China. We took 20 Grade 8 and 9 students, who were all learning Chinese, to Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai.
I took so many photos - here are just a few:
During our first week we stayed at Shanghai High School. The students attended classes throughout the week and we all stayed in dorms. We ate the amazing school food and got to learn lots about the education system in China. During one weekend the students stayed with host families and we were taken on an adventure with some of the Chinese Teachers. This was a really wonderful opportunity, as it gave us an authentic experience.
A short while later many of the students visited us in Atlanta. Chinese students stayed with their host families and we had one of the teachers stay with us. Most of the time students just shadowed their buddies, but we also had a few opportunities to come together as a group - including for a session I ran on stereotypes, assumptions and understanding different cultures. This session included both students from our school and SHHS.
Below is the presentation I used for the students and beneath that is a breakdown and reflection of the activities, with a few extra photographs! (You can see in the presentation that in the last slides I added in the students responses)
We started off the session with a Kahoot I created, called 'Where in the world? China or the USA?". Here I purposefully chose some images to confuse students! This was a good opening activity to get the students to be a bit more flexible.
During the next section I used the Chalk Talk thinking routine - where students walk around adding their thoughts to some prompts, and then add further thoughts to their peers' ideas. Many people do this in silence, but I often think the oral discussion which happens when doing this activity is very valuable (and especially important as many of our students, and obviously SHHS' have English as a second language!)
Here students had several venn diagrams, with one side being 'America' and the other side being 'China'. They had venn diagrams for; food, city life, education, entertainment and family life. I had all the students work together, but it may have also been interesting to have had the groups work individually or give each school different color pens, as it would help us understand who wrote what (both schools made many of the same assumptions about each other) - however, most of this information came out in the group discussion which followed after.
Much discussion actually happened while students were filling in the venn diagrams - but we also came together as a group after.
The next activity was a I Used to Think, Now I think - here students wrote both responses on a post-it note and added it to the board. I would like to have students brainstorm ideas about the country they are visiting before going and then reflect on those later - however as this was a single lesson, students were allowed to look back to before the trip or the start of the class for their 'I used to think' answer.
To end off the session I gave students the prompt "Why is it important to experience and appreciate another culture?". Students answered this through PollEverywhere, which showed all the responses on the board and also turned them into a live word cloud. I was super impressed with their thoughtful and mature responses, as well as how articulate the students were.
Some of my favorite responses:
I've added the responses from the last two activities into the last slides of the presentation at the top of this post.
Taking part in this Chinese exchange was truly inspiring - This exchange is organized by our Chinese teacher Jie Wu. She has given me so much 'food for thought', as well as so much delicious Chinese food! My teaching is better because of her influence. Hopefully we will collaborate more together in the next school year (watch this space!)
Here are some other unit/lesson ideas I had from our trip:
This was a great opportunity for me, as I tend to only ever visit France (where my mum lives) and England (where the rest of my family live). Although I am slowly exploring more and more of America, I definitely want to see more of the world. On the top of the list of Japan and Mexico. Where else should I visit? What has been your most inspiring vacation?
I am writing up my reflections from the Project Zero conference I attended last October - Project Zero Perspectives: Learning Together, Leading Together. See my post on Art and Contemporary Issues here and Stepping into Character here.
From Project Zero: “The Global Lens project is creating a curriculum that aims to educate for global competence. Working in close collaboration with teachers in Boston and Washington, DC, we are exploring how quality interdisciplinary study of global issues and deep engagement with global media can develop young people’s global competence. Come hear about this new project and where our thinking is taking us.”
Most of the session was focussed on an activity where we looked at the photograph below...which also happens to be what I took most notes on and will share with you here.
Pausing in the rain, a woman working as a trash picker at Nairobi's Dandora dump, which spills into households of one million people living in nearby slums, wishes she had more time to look at the books she sometimes comes across. She even likes the industrial parts catalogs. “It gives me something else to do in the day besides picking [trash],” she said. Image by Micah Albert. Kenya, 2012.
When first looking at this photograph I thought it was a painting. Something about the soft tones and the lighting makes it look almost beautiful. It's only when you look deeper and find out more about the context that the ugliness is revealed.
We reflected on a picture about the Dandora trash problem in Kenya following different layers of implication to uncover a global perspective of the issue at hand.
Micah Albert has some other photographs which could also be used for this activity:
Other useful resources for exploring Dandora/Kenya and/or landfills/dumps:
All schools do units about recycling and waste, but they often don't look at the human stories involved - this activity and a focus on Dandora could be a great way to help students connect to this issue on an emotional level.
I am writing up my reflections from the Project Zero conference I attended last October - Project Zero Perspectives: Learning Together, Leading Together. See my last post on Art and Contemporary Issues here.
From Project Zero: “How might perspective-taking help students understand a work of art more deeply? Using the See-Wonder-Connect Thinking Routine, participants will explore Pablo Picasso’s Family of Saltimbanques and connect this painting with others from the same period. Creative writing prompts will encourage perspective-taking and help participants construct their own imaginative interpretations of these complex works of art. The course will conclude by reflecting on the shared experience and considering applications for practice in the classroom.”
I probably would have never given much thought to this painting, so I appreciated having a long time to look at it to really absorb and then question what I was seeing. Having a lot of time to really think about the characters and how they were feeling and what exactly was happening was also very interesting. I don’t think I am very articulate or good at storytelling, but this really brought out a lot of creative ideas. Although I enjoyed it, I definitely would want to relate this activity more to global issues.
I would really like to do the same activity, but with photographs. I can see Facing History and Ourselves doing a similar activity to look at stereotypes, as well as a tool for empathy. Using perspective taking is a fantastic tool for building empathy and understanding.
Imagine doing the same activity with the following images:
A Libyan coast guard officer stands on a boat during the rescue of 147 illegal immigrants attempting to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah, Libya.
Second Chance Greyhound Prison Training.
(I had to sneak this in - this is the charity we adopted my greyhound through - and also prison reform is super important to me...posts coming about that soonish!)
Overall this was a good activity for me, as it helped me slow down my thinking and really try to understand the different characters and their relationships from the images. The activity was great, but it definitely would have appealed to me more if it was related to global issues or social justice.
What other images would you do this activity with? Send me your ideas!
Links to routine: “Step Inside: Perceive, Know about, Care about”
Every time I go on professional development, I write up what I learnt and share it with my colleagues (either an explicit document about the PD or through adding information in my Edtech newsletter). I haven't blogged for a while, so decided to add some of the information from recent(ish) PD here!
In October I attended Project Zero Perspectives: Learning Together, Leading Together in Washington DC. The next few entries will include write ups from sessions I attended.
PZ Description: “Artists communicate persuasive messages about issues of global import using a strategically-deployed vocabulary just as writers and public speakers do. Using Thinking Routines to engage with a massive artwork, participants will explore issues facing the world’s citizens today as well as the power of visual communication in shaping public opinion. As a group in the role of students, participants will engage in a discussion that spirals out from the classroom to take an increasingly global-minded perspective while we document our thinking and learning. Retaking the role of the teacher, this same documentation will guide reflection: how can a 40-minute object lesson spiral outward to inform students’ thinking when they have left the classroom? How can we lead by example, using evidence to refine our practice rather than holding tightly to unexamined plans?”
Alexis Rockman's "Manifest Destiny"
Chalk Talk for ‘What is propaganda’, ‘what is persuasion’ and ‘what place should art have in issues of global significance’.
We didn't spend too long on this activity, but you could definitely turn it into a whole lesson, or weave this discussion through a whole unit!
We then moved into the gallery where we spent the rest of the session looking at Alexis Rockman’s Manifest Destiny (at this point we did not know the name of the painting):
I really enjoyed this session and would love to do this with works we more commonly think of as propaganda. This painting and activity could be used as a great gateway into a scientific/humanities research piece. You could also easily find other works of art about other global issues and do the same activity.
This was very interesting to me, as I have family members who are artists and others who work for the news (including my dad who is about to retire after 40 years as a news cameraman!), so I would love to see their responses to the initial prompts.
Some ideas and resources for taking this further.
Adapt the unit using:
Hope I was able to explain the session clearly, as well as giving some ideas for adapting it. In August we take the whole Grade 10 to Washington DC, so I am going to do some pre-trip activities with my advisory students before we go.
Please share links to any resources, including artist and artworks, that you think will be useful for a related unit/lesson.