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Students explore the ways of cardboard and couches

THE pre-kindergarten and grade 5 students from the Western International School of Shanghai recently embarked on a fascinating field trip to a cardboard factory and a sofa factory in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province.

Students, teachers and parents arrived at the AIMS International Co Ltd, the cardboard factory where they were cordially received by director, Richard Yao, also a Pre-K parent, whose invitation made this adventure happen.

The students, exposed to the process of manufacturing cardboard, were thrilled to watch different machines cut and crimp card, glue layers of card, flatten card and cut it into precise sizes, according to each client's order.

The second stop was a locally run sofa factory close by, the Kunshan Skyline Furniture Co. The WISS students were toured around several departments to learn about the manufacturing of sofas. In the cutting and sewing zone, the Pre-K children were amazed to see layers of leather and suede being cut with just one sharp blade.

In the wood processing zone, the room was filled with busy workers using drills, jigsaws, sanders, lathes and shapers making the wooden sections of sofas. Further along was the assembly zone where white cotton and polyester stuffing was being packed and sewn into cushions. The exploration was wrapped up and the students' pockets were filled with cotton stuffing, leather samples and fabric lining as souvenirs.

For the Pre-K students, the field trip was linked to the central idea of their Unit of Inquiry - "We use different materials for different purposes." This idea serves as a lens through which they can explore the materials being used in the commercial world. They had been inquiring into how different materials can be changed and combined for different uses over seven weeks.

In the classroom they researched experimenting with various materials, such as glass, metal, fabric, plastic, paper, stone and wood. They had become curious about how to mix edible materials together to make cookies or jelly. They had been builders, creating and making objects out of boxes, cardboard rolls, egg cartons, fabric, aluminum foil and other recycled materials.

"It's a fantastic experience for the children to observe the use of materials in a real working factory, and this promotes the transition of their prior knowledge and skills into their everyday life. I'm sure they came back with a new perspective on lounging on the sofa to watch TV!" said Pre-K teacher Amy Griffin.

While it enhanced Pre-K students' understanding of materials, the field trip assisted the fifth graders in their quest for "The production of goods" within the Unit of Inquiry "the Market Place."

Within the framework of the International Baccalaureate curriculum, WISS stresses a hands-on, authentic learning experience, including numerous field trips in its Primary Years Program. Those enjoyable journeys expand the students' horizons, cement their knowledge about the concepts being taught in the classroom and extend their ability to make connections between prior knowledge and new information.


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