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Earth Day: an interdisciplinary exploration

24 May 2019
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. – Albert Einstein
On April 22 2019,  we celebrated the 50th World Earth Day, which had the theme: “Cherish the Beautiful Earth and Protect Natural Resources”, aiming to guide the public to develop the concept of: “harmonious coexistence between man and nature”. In order to inspire teachers and pupils at Huili to shift their attention to environmental protection issues and form an ecological consciousness of befriending, understanding and protecting nature, pupils of class 5A discussed Earth Day and the need for environmental protection in our daily lives and declared a proposal in this month’s whole-school assembly. Environmental protection in Huili is not only a ritual, but also a behavioural habit and an idea that should be remembered and passed down to future generations.

The pupils of class 5A attributed such reflection and subsequent action to their inquiry learning at Huili. We encourage pupils to think critically, gather sufficient information, and then help their peers, the school, and the wider community by taking practical action. While emphasising interdisciplinary thematic inquiry, we attach importance to subject teaching and strive to achieve a balance between the two. In their teaching, teachers use themes to act as a common point of reference throughout the whole subject while encouraging pupils to understand important concepts through a variety of engaging methods, to master subject-related knowledge and skills, to establish a positive attitude towards life, and practise the Huili Values.

The Classes Beyond Subjects Taking the theme of environmental protection in the textbook as an example, our teachers inspired and guided pupils to explore issues such as the impact of plastic waste on the environment, the various ways to reduce such waste through recycling, and the impact of cutting down trees on the rainforest’s ecosystem. In their Chinese classes, pupils were divided into groups to discuss the problems affecting our shared global environment and proposed their solutions. They also delivered ‘A Letter of Appeal’ on behalf of class 5A. In this class, with language training as its main target, pupils read, recited, learned and used expressive language in the course of inquiry. Mathematics is a carrier providing support to inquiry and a tool for solving problems efficiently. Our mathematics teaching starts from real situations, emphasising the application of mathematical knowledge to real life. For example, a teacher might design a question related to environmental protection in the following way: “Please record the number of garbage bags discarded in your home every day, and then calculate the number of garbage bags discarded in a year? Then calculate the number of discarded bags in ten years.” In music classes, our teachers encouraged the pupils to turn waste into treasure by collecting various recyclable materials and making them into their own environmental protection instruments. Every pupil in the class was involved in the performing and singing the environmental-themed song 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle). Connecting different subjects, maintaining the balance between knowledge and skills, developing the understanding of concepts, and cultivating a positive learning attitude, all these are the goals we are constantly pursuing. Going beyond the classroom: Actions speak louder than words In April, our campus was full of vigour and vitality as all kinds of flowers and plants came back to life. To make our campus more beautiful, pupils of class 5A called on the whole school to save water, electricity and paper, to cherish our lunchtime meals, to sort out the garbage, to use fewer plastic bags, and to use vehicles with low carbon emissions. In mid-May, class 5A are going to step outside of the classroom to pay a visit to Tzu Chi Environmental Protection Base at Shaoxing, to learn more about environmental protection. There they will learn to make environmentally friendly objects and how to classify garbage effectively.

World Earth day is not a single day event but aims to become an activity that can arouse people’s environmental protection awareness every day. We need to attach greater importance to nature, to protect our planet, and to develop a habit of loving the Earth. Let the Earth no longer suffer, Huili pupils are ready to be the doers!