Learning in the Park Series: Secondary School
Since opening its doors in 1995, Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) has enjoyed the good fortune of being situated adjacent to Honglingjin Park. Educators at YCIS Beijing take full advantage of the school’s auspicious location, seeking out every opportunity to harness the natural beauty, wide open spaces and abundance of wildlife to enrich their lessons.
This week we spoke with Farah Sun, Vice-Principal and Head of Secondary at YCIS Beijing about how and why the secondary programme utilises Honglingjin Park as a natural resource for learning.
Why do secondary teachers provide ‘learning in the park’ experiences for students?
At YCIS Beijing we take pride in our unique, innovative approach to teaching and regularly incorporating Honglingjin Park into lessons is just one example of this. As head of secondary, I encourage teachers to get out of the classroom and explore ways to turn the wider world around us into a teaching lab. The park is full of abundant opportunities for teachers to do just that.
When did the school begin incorporating Honglingjin Park into lessons?
We’ve made use of the park from day one. Since the school first opened in 1995. YCIS Beijing has been embracing the park as an extension of our school for nearly 25 years.
What was the impetus for venturing into the park for lessons?
To provide sensory learning experiences for the children initially and to just get outside, beyond the confines of school walls, to stimulate and engage our students’ minds.
How often does the school hold lessons in the park?
Lessons are held in the park as often as possible and whenever appropriate. The teachers make the call. Our Physical Education teachers probably use it the most regularly, at perhaps a minimum of once per week. It’s really used as often as weather and lesson requirements allow.
How does this enrich life and learning at school?
Honglingjin Park enriches our school in a myriad of ways. It provides our teachers with a perfect place to conduct field studies, ample opportunities for students to practice and test their Mandarin, a living historical and cultural archive in the form of the teeming crowds of elderly citizens who visit the park daily. The park has proven itself an inexhaustible resource for supplementing and enhancing all types of learning throughout our secondary programme. It helps us delivery truly holistic learning, taking what has been introduced in the classroom and explored on the page of a book and giving it context in the real world. Honglingjin Park literally helps us bring our lessons to life. Beyond teaching, we also use the park for staff team building, graduation and celebration activities, recreation and so much more. The park is truly a central feature of our school culture.
What has secondary been up-to in the park lately?
Well, earlier this week we had all secondary homeroom teachers take their students to the park to start the day. While the students enjoyed kicking their school day off with a bit of fresh air and exercise, the outing was actually planned as a bit of a recognisance mission ahead of Global Community Day (GCD). GCD is our biggest event of the year, and our students will be intricately involved in all manner of aspects for the event. From running booths (to learn about enterprise) to providing some of the live entertainment, they will play a big role, so we wanted to give them an opportunity to survey the space we’ll be using in the park for the event in the lead-up.
Our Head of Arts, Erin Luce also recently took her Year 12 music students to the park. She worked the live and recorded music played in Honglingjin Park into her lesson and helped her students connect their music lesson to the world around them. By all reports, the students not only enjoyed the lesson but felt invigorated and were inspired by the experience to explore the possibility of conducting future practices in the park and trying to incorporate local park musicians.
That concludes this week’s edition of YCIS Beijing’s ‘Learning in the Park’ series, highlighting how each division of the school makes use of beautiful Honglingjin Park. To learn more about how YCIS Beijing’s uses the park as an extension of its campus learning environment please read our past articles: “School in the Park: Beijing’s Autumnal Classroom”, “Bringing Life to Lessons: Creepy Crawlies Come to ECE”, “Chinese Interviews in Honglingjin Park”, and “Where The Class is Greener: Outdoor Learning Takes Root at YCIS Beijing”.