Growing Minds through Building Mars
At Yew Chung International School of Beijing, students in the Year 8 Learning Community recently joined together to undertake the school’s inaugural Mars Project, simulating the incredible efforts of SpaceX and Mars One as they aim to establish human colonies on Mars. Spread across many weeks, students were introduced to the fundamentals of setting up a new colony, including the formation of government and institutions, while relying on practical uses of mathematics, science, and the humanities to plan their new society.
Originally conceived of by a group of Secondary teachers in one of their regularly scheduled collaboration meetings, the aim of the project was to create something that could allow the Year 8 Learning Community to work together, that would be open to cross-curricular integration, and that could incorporate Project-Based Learning principles. The Mars Project fit those aims perfectly, while also being fun for students and drawing realistic parallels to the projects actually taking place in the world today.
Rebecca Flavin, Secondary English Teacher at YCIS Beijing, shares more information about the Mars Project, including the ways in which the unique Learning Community model helped to facilitate its success.
Welcome to Mars
With an excited crowd of Secondary students, staff and teachers gathered, the Mars Project kicked off with a “Live Mars Experience” through physical theatre. Choreographed by Primary Arts teacher Annette Atkins, the students looked at the push-pull factors of immigration and of leaving one place to go to another. All of the students at YCIS Beijing arrived in China as immigrants themselves, so they were able to recall and express their own push-pull emotions and feelings through theatre.
The performance was a dance piece consisting of two groups, the Martians and the humans. It showed the first humans landing on Mars and how they would feel, and the performance then evolved into showing how the societies would later integrate and open up to each other.
The CEO Pitch
Following the physical theatre performance, it was then time for the CEOs of the Mars Project to try to persuade the audience to join in the inaugural space mission. Modeled on the SpaceX and Mars One missions, students had spent time in Chinese class during weeks prior refining their persuasive writing skills. Students had to convince their classmates and teachers to take the trip to Mars, knowing that it’s a one-way trip.
The Presidential Election
Next up was a series of candidate speeches for the office of the first president of Mars. Students pretended that they had already landed on their new planet and were in the process of building new institutions and governing bodies. In order to do this, they needed to run a presidential election.
As a part of English class in the preceding weeks, students made campaign posters, took part in debates and polished their speeches. On the day of the project share, candidates from each class were elected to represent their political party and give their speeches. As an interactive exercise, the audience each had a ballot that they could tick. The day then concluded with the announcement of the first president, Year 8 student Tracy Li!