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SCIS Students Trade Book Bags for Backpacks

November, 2009
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Friedrich Engel once wrote, “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” 

Shanghai Community International School (SCIS) firmly believes the same. If you are going to talk the talk, you need to walk that walk. 

scis-chn-trip-1sDuring the last week of September, SCIS Pudong Upper School cleaned out its hallways and sent its students packing, literally. Each grade, from six to twelve, left the city by bus or plane to investigate China first-hand. While focusing on the country’s rich history, vibrant culture and promising future, there was a firm belief students would also learn about themselves.

"There is only so much our students can learn from sitting behind a desk reading books or researching through the internet,” expressed the school’s Vice Principal, Ty Smeins. “If we truly want our students to understand our host country, they have to get out there and see it, feel it, hear it, smell it, and yes, taste it. That is the difference between knowing and understanding.”

Each grade level ventured off to a different region of China. “We start with shorter trips closer to the city for the younger kids,” explained Smeins, “and each year the students move further out into the country for longer durations.” An excited  group of grade six students ventured off to Suzhou for three days to investigate the city’s 4000 year-old history and to learn about themselves. 

The 10th and 11th grades had the most challenging trips. Both groups journeyed to what are often touted as the most beautiful areas of China; Guangxi Province and the Guilin area. But the students had little time to snap pictures of their beautiful surroundings. Upon arrival the group was split into grade levels. Grade 10 students headed for Yangshuo to focus on team building and outdoor education through physical activity. During the trip, students participated in orienteering, raft building, caving, biking, camping and cooking.

Throughout the five days and four nights of their adventure, students were challenged to push their own limits and experience the fruits of working as a productive team. Ji Ye, one of the students in the group, explained the benefits of such activities as rock climbing, “When I go up to climb, there is nobody to hold my hand. I have to climb by myself. So, I need to be confident about myself.”

The grade 11 students took a different route from Grade 10 and headed to the more rural areas of Yang An and Shi Mian Shan villages to conduct community service at the local primary schools. The groups worked on a variety of projects to improve learning conditions including painting murals, building drinking water stations and installing rubbish bins. The SCIS upper classmen also used the afternoons to teach self-created English lessons to the children.

"It is amazing to see the changes in some of our students over the course of the week,” exclaimed Simon Grimmer, the SCIS trip leader and Upper School Biology teacher. “When our kids see the desolate, crowded conditions in which these children are living and trying to learn, it strikes to the heart of them. They want to do all that they can to help. Everyone pitched in. It didn’t matter if they were digging holes, mixing, carrying and pouring cement, painting and interacting with the local students our students gave a 100% effort.”

A week later, the halls of SCIS were full of chattering students. Grade 8 students were bragging about hiking along the Great Wall during their expedition to Beijing. Grade-9s showed off the goods they purchased at the market in the ancient town of Qingyang while visiting Guizhou. And the school seniors told tall tales of how they conquered the raging white waters in Lijang.


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