06 Sep, 2019
10 : 00
This summer, the topic that is hotter than the temperature in Shanghai is "garbage classification". With this wave of environmental heat rushing into the streets of Shanghai, the entire city was drowned in the technical difficulties of sorting garbage. But indeed, this wave of "hard operation" has really cleaned up every corner of Shanghai, making this city a lot cleaner. We have also witnessed that environmental protection awareness and habits are passed on through inheritance and education.
This summer, some students and teachers from Yew Wah participated in a PBL (project-based learning) summer camp that related with environmental protection. This summer camp was led by the best PBL practising school in the whole world – High Tech High School. It’s an American PBL camp with the theme called “environmental hero”.
What kind of summer camp did Yew Wah students attend?
Let’s get to know High Tech High School:
•The originator and best representative of education in the global PBL field. The school is located at K12 School in California and has 13 branches in the San Diego area. It covers kindergarten to high school, and the school practises project-based learning.
• In 2015, the film Most Likely to Succeed from High Tech High won the Best Education Documentary Award, and it was played in thousands of schools in the United States.
•Commented by Bill Gates as "the school that every child wants to go to".
•In 2011, the school was selected to join the education reform plan of the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" and became a model for the 2020 school goal in the United States.
What is project-based learning (PBL)?
•In-depth learning for "learning in practice" – Students complete a project designed by the teacher independently or collaboratively in a team.
• "All aspects" of the knowledge coverage – Students will grow in terms of subject knowledge, ability, social practice and other aspects at the same time, to build a more real and comprehensive cognitive system of learning.
•The “real” teaching approach – Unlike the traditional discipline-based learning, project-based learning stimulates the enthusiasm of learning and establishes links with real life.
The above is the general background of the summer camp that Yew Wah children participated in this year.
So what kind of inspiration did Yew Wah's children gain from PBL under such a vision of the education system?
The prologue of the PBL course is unique. This is the common feeling shared by both teachers and children of Yew Wah. The classroom of the first day was set on the East Coast. With a good location near the East China Sea, the children were taken to the real beach and began to explore the ecological environment of this sea area after the HTH teacher had introduced "marine protection" knowledge in the morning. Observing the ecological damage caused by garbage pollution in these waters, they were shocked by the pollution so they really wanted to call on the protection of the ocean. In the process, they also invited the public welfare organisation's personnel to share, and in the interaction with the personnel, the children had a deeper understanding of the "marine protection" work. These early preparations were just for children to collect materials for the next few days of work, so that they could complete the project and give final results.
The above case overview is the so-called scaffolding learning method, in which the output of the final learning results is closely related to the input of solid basic theoretical knowledge, the exploration in practice, analysis and summary in the previous period.
Project-based learning is also a learning method with clear learning purposes and learning objectives. Children in the PBL camp were required to produce environmental films and posters to show their learning results. In this process, the educational thinking mode adopted by HTH is very similar to Yew Wah's educational philosophy, as both of them use the teaching mode of "critical thinking". Some of the practices are worth reflecting on.
In the poster design activity, when children finished their own work, the teacher asked them not only to present and comment on their own works, but also to learn to comment on others' work. In this process, we saw an interesting phenomenon that many children felt nervous and embarrassed at the beginning.We also noticed that most children felt confused when they commented on themselves or others, and it is not difficult to find out that this was because they had no idea of "poster design", so they had no way to start. Another point is that there is a lack of teamwork and teamwork experience in the traditional education system, so children do not know how to express their views wisely and bravely, and even fear to offend others or receive negative comments from others. At this time, the teacher's guidance is very important; they shared excellent work cases to explain to children what a good or bad model was; secondly, they shared communication skills, so that children could first learn and affirm the advantages of others, and then elaborate their own views when they appreciated other people's works. For comments from others, the teacher told the children that they did not need to adopt them all or pay special attention to them.
Another detail was reflected in the production of the environmental film.The PBL course cultivated a strong team spirit, as children completed tasks in groups. In a group, if teacher found that a child was complaining, they would assign him or her the role of director. When he or she took the role that required overall planning, evidence could be found that the child improved significantly. They made remarkable changes in empathy and communication style.
These are examples to show that the PBL course helps children learn to respect, tolerate, analyse, summarise and deduce, and then develop the ability of independent study.
– Feedback from Yew Wah Teachers and Students
Finally, let's sit together at the round table of teachers and students from Yew Wah, and listen to their feedback.
Editor: What do you want to share about this five-day experience?
Ms Wang: What I saw is that meaningful learning is needed in growing up. During the time that children explored the world, they could also explore their own potential, and thus surprisingly found out: I can do this myself!
Ms Sang: During these days of observation, I realised the advantages of Yew Wah students. In particular, HTH teachers gave us feedback that Yew Wah students are outstanding in the team co-ordination, cohesion, co-ordination ability, respect for the opinions of others, tolerance and accepting of multiple perspectives when compared to local school children. When they made a mistake in a team, Yew Wah 's children immediately began to find solutions to try to make up for it, while other children were still arguing about the responsibility of the accident, complaining and putting off the task at hand.
This project has nothing to do with children's academic performance, but with their own abilities. We have seen the different teaching results brought about by different educational systems and the real impact it has on our children.
Ms Chen: My feeling is that the results of project-based learning are mainly self-motivated and done by teamwork. Motivated by the sense of honour, students need to get out of their comfort zone, to overcome personality limitations, and try to understand and accept other people's opinions in order to achieve mental growth.
Brian Shen (Grade 6): The strongest feeling I have is about "marine protection". I realise that marine pollution has a great impact on the earth. Yesterday I read an article that even the water out of our taps has plastic residue. Ms Lisa told us that many people in the United States like to drink directly from the tap, so the harm to our body would be enormous. And on the first day, we saw pictures of the five major marine garbage dumps, which were much more than I expected. Plastic particles less than 0.5 millimeters are everywhere, and it makes me realise that hazards are everywhere. It made me think that environmental protection can start from small things and we can influence others with our own strength. For example, we can drink yoghurt without using plastic straws, so as to reduce pollution.
Steve Cao (Grade 6): Here I learnt how to allocate and use time reasonably, such as how to use after school time to complete tasks under the circumstances that my body and spirit can bear. In addition, I hope that I can express my ideas better and communicate better with others in my own studies and life.
Editor: Thank you for the sharing from the above teachers and children. It brings us a lot of valuable inspiration and new insights.
This is but a tip of the iceberg of what teachers and children gained from this summer camp. We hope that they can make better use of these gains in the new school year.