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WISS IB students learn about the land

As part of their IB Primary Years Program Units of Inquiry on "Growing Things" and "Habitats," students at Western International School of Shanghai, took a literal "field" trip stepping right outside into a field next to their new campus and talking with a farming expert.

Li Xiaohong has been farming for 50 years in one of the many remaining green spaces in Qingpu District.

The Shanghai farmer explained to the students who composed questions in advance and asked them in Chinese. On her plot of land Li grows cotton, sigua (towel gourd), nangua (pumpkin), donggua (winter melon) and kugua (bitter gourd).

The PYP Program of Inquiry is based on the principle that students learn best when they begin by brainstorming for their natural questions and then seek answers to them. They learn authentically, so units focused on science are always hands on and experimental and often take them out into the field, as well as bringing parts of the field into the classroom.

Kindergarten students asked Li about what she grew, how she grew it, when she planted, and so on. Li pointed out that she gets most of her seeds from plants rather than by purchasing them.

Students are currently engaged in growing their own plants under experimental conditions to study the effects of various factors on the growth rate.

Next month as part of their "Earth Day" celebrations, the school will inaugurate its own organic gardens that sits right behind the school's own small bamboo forest.

The WISS second graders have been doing a comparative study of habitats, including those around the school, and they have been going into the field frequently. They asked Li about what kinds of species she observes in the field during her daily work; most interesting to the students was the presence of snakes.

The students have created a small version of the wetland habitat in their classroom.

Most of the students, even the younger ones, were able to communicate with Li, to her delight, because they hone their Chinese skills in daily classes and have two teachers in every class, one native English speaking and one native Chinese speaking.

Additionally, students are exposed to more Chinese language practice in their daily specialist classes (art, music, physical education) where teachers communicate predominantly in Chinese.

Chinese teacher Rene Ren commented: "We take frequent excursions such as this because real life experiences, requiring us to use language, are the best way to learn."

This model of learning Chinese is being widely implemented throughout the school.

The PYP IB program is fast becoming the preferred curriculum of choice for highly-mobile families. WISS will be opening its Middle School IB Program in September this year.

For information please call 6976-6388, or visit www.wiss.cn.


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