St Augustine once said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Many people around the world never get to experience travel and the learning experiences that go with it, seemingly unaware of the unique cultures and life outside of their own comfort zone. Fortunately,grade 6 pupils had the opportunity this month to ‘flip the pages’ and learn more about their world and their own country during our residential trip to Guizhou.
There were many highlights of the trip, including visiting Huang Guo Shu, the largest waterfall in Asia; visiting the FAST radio telescope, the largest of its kind in the world, and learning about it directly from astronomy experts; and exploring Xijiang Miao Village and learning about the distinct cultural traditions and celebrating the rich diversity of China.
More than visiting famous sights, however, this trip was meant to be a valuable learning experience for pupils, by building their social skills, independence, and community. Certainly for me, the highlight was our visit to Pingtang Hangtou Primary School. I was so impressed with the kindness and respect our pupils showed towards the students and staff at Pingtang Hangtou. Pupils participated in team building activities with the students from Guizhou and despite coming from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, instantly connected with their peers. It was amazing to see pupils from different areas of China bond so quickly and the experience helped many of our pupils to become more open-minded and empathetic to the experiences of others.
Another positive aspect of the trip was the way in which our pupils collaborated with members of their house. In grade 6, pupils spend so much of their time with their form classes, but on this trip, they had the opportunity to build relationships within their houses. This was evident in the team building games at Pingtang Hangtou, as well as the creation of their house travel blogs and the team-building activities they participated in daily. It was impressive to see certain pupils step up into leadership positions and take ownership over house activities.
The best part of the trip was how it connected holistic education to academics. A trip built on building pupils’ social skills and independence would have been valuable enough, but coupling it with academics made it all the more meaningful. Pupils had opportunities on the trip to analyse Guizhou’s tourism industry, compare its demographics to that of Shanghai, and learn about its traditional culture. These are just some of the examples of the academic curriculum side of the trip, but the signature academic learning came during our visit to FAST. The pupils were awed by the size and scope of FAST, and were inspired by the lectures of the astronomers. Our trip to FAST was truly a memorable academic experience for both the pupils and their teachers.
As the entire trip was so busy, it is now important for pupils to sit back and reflect upon their learning. Hopefully they can think about their experience, what they learned about themselves, what they learned about others, and how the trip taught them to appreciate what they have. If the world is a book, as St. Augustine said, then hopefully by flipping the pages during this trip, pupils will be inspired to read more of it in the future.