The city of Hangzhou was a major consideration in the location of the Hangzhou CIS programme. It is a cultural classroom unto itself as both one of China’s oldest cultural hubs, with myriad historic and literary sites, and also one of China's most progressive metropolises, with up-to-date amenities and a booming technology sector.
Students have many opportunities to go out into the city, with appropriate supervision, for project-based learning activities, community service, and for leisure activities.
Out & About in Hangzhou
To forge ties with Hangzhou residents, all students participate in service activities taking place at least once a week.
The following is a sampler of the approximately one dozen organisations with which Hangzhou CIS has ongoing relationships:
- Chinese Grassroots Football www.weibo.com/u/
- Dejia Community Centre www.weibo.com/u/
- Greentown Hospital weibo.com/u/5284022156
- Hangzhou Children's Hospital www.weibo.com/u/
- Hangzhou Chinese Medicine Hospital www.weibo.com/u/
- Sunnylands Community Centre www.weibo.com/u/
- Wen Xin Road Old Peoples’ Centre www.weibo.com/u/
Students are asked to micro-blog about their experiences on Weibo channels set up each activity. See links above.
Project-Based, Place-Based & Value-Based Learning
With Hangzhou CIS's emphasis on inquiry and independent discovery, the Hangzhou year offers a perfect opportunity to deliver a significant portion of the curriculum through interdisciplinary and project-based learning.Fundamental to the year are a number of interdisciplinary learning experiences that students help to design and that allow students to interact with local residents.
Learning goals include:
- making the most of the students' time immersed in Chinese society;
- allowing learning to happen independent of the traditional structures of classroom, class day and subject area;
- and challenging each student to better understand his or her own optimal learning process.
Project-based learning activities are carefully planned to build on each other.
"Individuals & Societies" (INS)
For its integrated teaching of History and Geography, Hangzhou CIS uses the course name "Individuals & Societies", which is also name the IB (International Baccalaureate) uses to refer to the Social Sciences (History, Geography, Economics and Psychology).
Students are set the challenge of learning the methodology of social scientists through an inquiry-based approach. Each student frames and refines a "Big Question" of personal interest that will also allow the student to better understand contemporary Chinese society.
During "Exploration Days", individually or in small groups, students seek out interview subjects on and off campus who can help answer their "Big Questions".
Regular exhibitions are held so that students may share their progress with each other - although in addition to conventional displays, students may also use performance, film or a TED-style talk to "exhibit" their work to date.
At the end of Act 1 (October), students spend two days discovering the island of Tongzhou, about 40 kilometres southwest of Hangzhou.
Home to farming communities for generations, this 4-sq. km. island in the Fuchun River has begun to attract tourists interested in eco-tourism and outdoor recreation.
Students learn about the history and geography of the island, and are then tasked with interviewing residents about their life stories and with developing designs to transform a dilapidated structure into an imagined Hangzhou CIS learning centre. They also have the opportunity to explore the island by bicycle and kayak.
Students live and take meals with island residents. Students also engage in reflection on their Hangzhou time to date and begin plans for the Beyond experience (see below).
In Act 5 (April), in groups of no more than 15, students take part in a week-long project with either an explicit service focus or link to an academic topic or other activity that has been part of the Hangzhou experience throughout the year.
Recent options have included:
- Work Experience - in Hangzhou.
- Planetwalker - a mindful walk through Hangzhou and Zhejiang Province with environmental activist Dr. John Francis.
- Yunnan - teaching at schools where Coach Mentors who are alumni of "Teach for China" have previously worked.
- Huang Shan - hiking, drawing and painting amid China's iconic "Yellow Mountain" range in Anhui Province.
During Act 4 (Feb/March), students spend four weeks engaged in a period of concentrated endeavour. There are two nine-day cycles, each made up 8 days of endeavour plus a 1-day exhibition.
Students are grouped according to their preferred learning style, and each group adopts a different Zhejiang town/city as its base (recent locations have included Anji, Fuyang, Tonglu, Yandang Mountain and Yiwu).
Student pursuits range widely. They have included film-making, a manufacturing and business enterprise, a sports-related project in support of a charitable cause, design and delivery of educational materials for local schools, etc. Plans are begun in Tongzhou during Act 1, then refined in Acts 2 and 3, with chosen faculty members.
Each endeavour incorporates:
- A learning style - e.g., "storytelling", "data-collection and analysis", "observation", "representation", "fabricating", etc.
- Elements specific to the home-base location - e.g., a cooking endeavour that focuses on adapting traditional dessert recipes of the town.
- A way to share the fruits of the endeavour with others - e.g., publishing the results of interviews in the media; donating proceeds back to the home-base community, etc.
Students are expected to be proactive in seeking out appropriate persons to serve as advisors, interviewees or other forms of project partner.