November 2010 No. 40
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Rural Teacher Presents RCEF Curriculum Development Experience
Partner School Profile: Dong Wu Xing Primary School
Reading Original Works by Chinese Authors
Diary Entry: Weekend Excursion with Village Children
Recognition of Recent Donors
RCEF Shares Curriculum Experience
In November, RCEF visited rural education projects in Yunnan and Shaanxi Province to learn about their work and share RCEF’s experiences. Audiences were very interested in videos of the RCEF curriculum such as the Sweet Potato Investigation Project and the Water Investigation Project. Some representative of other NGOs working in rural education expressed interest in developing similar curriculum in their rural schools.
Above: Executive Director Diane Geng and RCEF partner teacher Sun Huimiao answer questions about how RCEF lessons were developed
By Zhao Junfang, Director, Starfish Rural Youth Cultural Research Center
We began working with Dong Wu Xing Primary School in August of this year. It is the second partner school in our program. Our relationship with the school is currently in the beginning stage of collaboration: giving the principle and teachers a chance to understand our curriculum goals and teaching methods. Our program staff members teach Reading Class, Integrated Practice Class, and English at the school.
Above: Students browse and check out books our program brought to the school.
Dong Wu Xing Village, where the school is located, lies about 20 kilometers from the county seat. The students mostly come from three surrounding villages which together have about 4000-5000 people. Farmers mostly grow cotton, because the soil here is high in salt, resulting in low production of wheat. Due to the nearby Wu Xing lake being highly polluted, water for the village comes from a spring in a nearby mountain, supplied twice a week.
Above: The gate to the front of the school before renovations.
The school was built in 1949 on top of a temple that was torn down. It has a total of 9 classrooms and was renovated in 2008. In the past few years, the village governing committee has spent a total of 170-180,000 RMB on school construction. The village secretary has always supported education and has told the principal to focus on the quality of education. When the recent policy to consolidate rural schools was announced, this school was slated to be closed as it is far from the city and still requires a lot of renovations. However, with the help of the village committee, the school was saved and renovated again in 2010. Some of the campus is still under construction and the students are playing on an open dirt field this semester.
Above: The playing field of the school.
Principal Chen, 48, is a man of few words. He values research in teaching and management, and is respected by other teachers. After graduating from high school he became a teacher and then a principal by age 32. He has been the principle of this school for six years. Principal Chen values educational quality over hardware and believes that smaller classes mean better quality of teaching. He tries to keep each class under 30 students. Principle Chen enjoys researching teaching methods and pays close attention to reading classes. In fact, he encourages first and second grade teachers to read stories to the students.
This year is the beginning to our collaboration. We are all looking forward to the next stage in our partnership next year when the teachers that are interested in our classes can start participating.
Reading Original Works by Chinese Authors
Zheng Kai, Program Manager, Starfish Rural Youth Cultural Research Center
In the first two months of this semester, our third grade reading class at Dong Wu Xing Primary School read books written by foreign authors. This month, we picked books by Chinese authors to expose students to Chinese history and folklore. Students pored through Jianghong Chen’s Tiger Prince and Horse God, which are based on folk tales, and King of Hide and Seek. The latter has scenes familiar to our students since they like to play “Hide and Seek” in the village!
Above: Ms. Wang introduces the book Tiger Prince to the class.
First, we gave students time to read the books together in small groups. One student read aloud to the other group members, making sure that everyone was engaged. Afterwards, we left the books in their classroom so that students could read them independently in their free time. Based on students’ level of interest, we chose Tiger Prince as the subject for a whole-class book discussion. Each student was responsible for thinking back over the book and preparing a list of questions. The purpose of the discussion was to help them explore themes from the book and understand the story better—not just to test knowledge retained.
Tiger Prince is inspired by an illustration on an ancient Chinese bronze vessel that depicts a child in the mouth of a tiger. Related folktales tell of a child who was raised from infancy by a tiger. In this book by Jianghong Chen, a king gives his son to a female tiger to stop her from terrorizing his people. The tiger raises the child and teaches him about tiger culture. They meet with many dangers but in the end, a mother’s love overcomes all.
Above: The students and teacher share their thoughts in the discussion circle.
The students and teacher share their thoughts in the discussion circle.
The students and teacher, Ms. Wang Yanzhen, sat in a discussion circle and shared their thoughts. The first half of the forty minute class was spent letting the students state their own questions. After one student asked a question, the other students gave their responses. If the teacher wanted to prompt the students to think more deeply, she might ask a related question to help the students come up with even more ideas and questions. In the second half of the class, Ms. Wang prepared higher-level questions to guide students thinking. For example, she asked, “After the prince was sent to the territory of the Tiger King, how do you think the queen felt back in the palace?” and “Look carefully at the pictures on page 19 and 28. What do you think was going through the Tiger King’s mind?”
At the end of the class, students said what they thought about the book overall:
“I like this story. The illustrations are very beautiful!”
“I like this story because there are many moving scenes. For example the scene where the prince says goodbye to the Tiger King and they embrace with tears.”
“I like this story because it shows the love of a mother for her child!”
“I like this story because it moved me.”
“I like this story because the illustrations and plot are all really great!”
Compared to the beginning of the semester, students are more able to confidently express their own suggestions and thoughts during discussions and can use facts to support their perspective. Our students seemed to relate to these original Chinese stories very well and we plan to use more of them in future discussions.
By Sun Chuanmei, Program Manager, Starfish Rural Youth Cultural Research Center
On weekends, I usually stay in the village where our program is based. Students who live in the village come and keep me company. We read books, tell stories, and play shuttlecock. Last weekend, they heard that I run every morning and asked to come with me.
We went to a lake outside the village. It looked beautiful with the mountains in the background and birds swimming in the water. A sign next to the shore said “Pay for Fishing.” The children got very excited, saying that they wanted to come here to fish in the future. The clamor they were making scared the birds which swam into the middle of the lake.
As the children moved closer, they discovered that some of the water in the lake (where there were no birds) was a light pink color. Bubbles frothed where that water lapped against the shore. The children asked me why this was. I said that it looked like some kind of pollution but I didn’t where it came from.
Pointing to a tall smokestack in the distance, the children said, “It must be from there.” Someone suggested going to take a look. We all ran along the shore for quite a long time until we came to a big pipe that was gushing out foul-smelling water into the lake. No one said anything as we watched the lake water become redder and redder. After a long time, I heard the children have this conversation:
“If that water keeps going in, one day all the water in the lake will become red.”
“That will definitely happen because this water doesn’t stop. Unless the factory goes bankrupt.”
“If the lake water turns red, then the water is bad. There won’t be any more water birds.”
“How could there be any more birds? There won’t even be fish.”
“I was just thinking about coming here to fish in the future. I was thinking of waiting for my dad to come back from his migrant work so we can go fishing together.”
“If you want to fish, then you have to close the factory so that this kind of water won’t go into the lake anymore.”
“No. If the factory closes, won’t people lose their jobs?”
“That’s not good…”
On the way home, it took awhile for the children to resume their usual lively chatter. From the things they were talking about, I could tell that they had almost forgotten the lake that was so close by.
They really don’t know much about the environment around them. Every day they just go from home to school and from school back home, from sitting in front of their teachers to sitting in front of the television. Their world is very small. They don’t know why the lake water turns colors. One day when there is no place for them to go fishing, will they know the reason?
When I parted from them that day, I wondered when these children will have the chance to know the reasons behind the realities they see around them. This is the challenge we work hard to meet.
We are grateful to all the supporters who donated to RCEF in November 2010! (A complete list of donors through the years is available here.)
Bronze Sponsors ($100-$999)
Chi Cheng (New York, NY)
Supporting Sponsors (under $99)
Helga Mazyar (Houston, TX)
The RCEF Newsletter is a publication about the educational initiatives supported by RCEF in rural China. The activities described in this edition are from the program of the Starfish Rural Youth Cultural Research Center, RCEF’s main field partner, located in Yongji, Shanxi Province.
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See videos of RCEF's activities on our Youtube Channel!
Helping Schools in Gansu
Project teacher Ms. Zhang Li worked with fourth graders to plan a fundraising campaign for impoverished schools in Gansu Province.
Green Campus Project
Project teacher Ws. Wang Min describes the process of helping students carry out a campus landscaping project.
Water Investigation Project
This video shows how students went into the community to research water issues.
Sweet Potato Investigation
All the steps of this yearlong project on a local crops can be seen in this video.
Part 1: Egg Selling Experience
Students brought their eggs to market for the first time. See their salesmanship in action!
Part 2: Egg Selling Experience
A customer gives valuable advice to students on how to promote their eggs' advantages over other eggs.
Singing, Dancing Little Librarians
Students celebrate their roles as managers of the school library by creating their own song and dance.
Teacher Profile: Mr. Pei
Curriculum Teacher Mr. Pei Weifeng leads students through a science class.
Students carried out a campaign to educate their neighbors in three villages about the harms of smoking
RCEF posts monthly and quarterly newsletters on our website.Click here to read past issues
(C) Rural China Education Foundation 2010