02 Mar, 2018
10 : 00
During a unit this month on “living things”, Year 4 teachers at Yew Chung International School of Beijing decided to bring real-world issues into the classroom. Inspired by a recent ban in China on the ivory trade – and by a lack of awareness of the ban by many members of the local community – teachers prompted students to study the issue of endangered elephants and to be a voice for change.
Sian Edwards, Year 4 co-teacher at YCIS Beijing, goes into greater detail about the recent Save the Elephants project, including the ways in which the Chinese language programme was incorporated to enhance student learning and ways that parents can support their children’s passion to make a change in the world.
Though our study of living things and endangered species was foremost a lesson in science, at YCIS Beijing, the Chinese programme is intertwined throughout classroom lessons to reinforce our bilingual and bicultural curriculum. This is also important because issues such as endangered animals aren’t isolated to a single region of the world – and the extinction of a species would be mourned equally in both the Eastern and Western worlds.
During the week, students were arranged in groups, working with different teachers on media projects such as creating infographic posters, video news bulletins, and movie trailers. Each group was led by both a Western and a Chinese co-teacher, and the students were selected specifically in order to have strong English speakers and strong Chinese speakers in each group. All of the materials that students created were required to have both English and Chinese languages, so the entire project maintained a bilingual focus as a part of its success criteria.
When first learning of the ban on ivory, many students were surprised. They’re very caring children, so they became passionate about this issue and started to think about all the ways that they could spread awareness of the threat to elephants. Many students went home and did additional research on their own; they spoke to their parents and even put up posters around the compounds where they live.
During classroom activities, students also showed a great deal of enthusiasm and were delighted to engage in an issue that has real-life implications. In utilizing the Learning Community space, students had many chances to collaborate with each other – and in doing so, their motivation and sense of shared purpose were strengthened.
A Helping Hand
If parents would like to continue to encourage their children’s spirit of activism, the first step can be to help them put into words something that they’re passionate about. If children are able to vocalize a change that they’d like to see made, then parents can begin to talk to them about this issue and encourage them at every stage.
Children are often more aware of world issues than we think they are, so parents can simply talk to them about these issues at a level that’s age-appropriate, and then discuss and encourage them throughout the process of making a difference – through actions as varied as starting a petition or putting up posters, just encouraging them along the journey towards change is most important.