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Year 7 explore China’s past in the storied city of Nanjing

23 October 2017
As an international school based in China, it is important that we provide experiences for our pupils which enable them to cultivate an appreciation of, and respect for, native Chinese culture. With this in mind, our year 7 recently embarked on a three-day excursion to Nanjing, a city which has served as the Chinese capital on multiple occasions throughout our host nation’s long and intriguing history. Alongside respect, we also seek to engender responsibility in our young people. For many of the year 7 children, this trip was the first time that they had spent more than 24 hours away from their family. In such circumstances, I was very proud to see the adaptability of our pupils and what really shone through throughout the trip was their enjoyment, enthusiasm and ability to be respectful, independent and inquiring learners. I am a firm believer that enjoyment is a critical factor in facilitating learning. You may consider it a little sneaky, but for me the best learning often occurs unconsciously, when children are so immersed in an activity that they do not view it as “work” per se. Even mealtimes were turned into learning opportunities as we sampled Nanjing culinary staples such as salted duck, pork knuckle and, for those brave enough, the appetizingly titled thousand-year-old egg, giving pupils an insight into the wider culture of the region, however unwittingly. If learning does occur in this way, it is important that it is followed up. This was certainly the case when pupils visited the Nanjing Museum, an excellent facility which explores the full range of Chinese history. This is not a word I would use lightly, but our children were captivated for the duration of this visit. In fact, they would have quite happily spent longer exploring the exhibits. However, the sheer volume of historical attractions in Nanjing necessitated that we move on to the Presidential Palace, a building of real import in the history of modern China. Pupils explored the offices of Dr Sun Yat Sen, and later Chiang Kai-Shek, formative characters in China’s transition from imperial to republican rule. Afterwards, the pupils were once again transported back in time on a visit to the China Gate, an imperial era structure which also played a role in more recent history during the Japanese invasion of 1937. Pupils found this stage of the excursion most enjoyable, despite the inclement weather. The final day was taken up with a visit to the outskirts of the city to take in the tomb complexes of the Ming emperors and Dr Sun Yat Sen. While there are plenty of open spaces in Shanghai, it was clear that our children relished being out in the greenery of the park complex where they could learn in an outdoor context. Despite the exertions of the trip, we returned to the College with a set of high-spirited and thoughtful students. The trip was a great success and a truly enjoyable experience for all involved. I feel that it has fulfilled the aim of providing our pupils with a greater cultural appreciation of the country they inhabit. Perhaps most importantly however, it was another chance for our year 7s to demonstrate how quickly they are growing up to be responsible, courteous and caring individuals. Darren Simpson History teacher