Friday, June 11, 2010

Nature Festival

was a grand success. We danced a circle dance from Israel, a circle dance from Greece, and the cha cha. We hit three pinatas full of candy. We ate watermelon. We played games. We watched a few performances: flute player, singer who sang a song by Avril Lavigne, a hand clap "Miss Mary Mack", and "Going on a Bear Hunt."It took two months to plan, and the students who planned it were extremely proud. I think we were all amazed that an idea started in Chengdu with a Project Design and Management Workshop could lead to students drawing their own idea on flip chart paper and then moving it from theory to reality.

The method that was learned at the the workshop, gave structure to help everyone focus their ideas to create a project. Over the past two years we have tried to get students to plan culture activities, to think up ideas of how to improve the Tree House but often have failed. Following a few of the steps in the workshop book really helped us.The great thing about the Nature Festival project was that it combined Western ideas with Chinese ideas. My site mate and I were pushing the students' creativity to think outside of the typical activities that they do. Instead of just putting on a role play and doing a variety of performances, what else could we do? What else could we learn? How could we use English in a different way than English corner and free talk? It took time for the students to understand what we were trying to do which is why it took 2 months to plan the activity.

One difficulty that my site mate and I have always had in planning culture events for the students is making the party last for more than an hour. Having the students plan the whole event made it also very Chinese with LOTS of activities. We first pushed a Western idea on the students- think of something fun and different that would entice students to come and learn English in a non classroom way, to create a real English environment somehow. Then the students took the Western idea and planned a Chinese event. It was the combination of two cultures.

I think one reason that it was so successful was because we spent a lot of time planning, and didn't push for instant success. Americans usually are very efficient, can think up an idea, plan it and have it ready to go in a week or so. It took longer for our students especially since we were trying to plan something that was outside of their realm of familiarity.

Students are quite used to the idea of last minute planning since schedules in China are a big unknown, and events are often last minute with very little warning. (Just two days ago students learned about a speech competition that they have to prepare for. Write and practice a speech about Culture Smart Science Intelligent in two days.) So when we learned that the nature festival had to be changed from Saturday to Friday, the students were on top of it. Do this. Do that. Get this ready. Last minute planning is their strength, but what made this last minute planning different was that they had already spent two months thinking up different ways to hold the event. We didn't just plan a typical Chinese event, but something new. It was a combination of having two months to become comfortable with a new idea combined with the last minute planning that happens so often because of the scheduling unknowns.

We spent two months using English to plan an event. Then the event was a great success. Many students used English. More students are now aware of the Tree House and maybe are a little less afraid of speaking English and interacting with the foreign teachers. The vision we had in Chengdu to improve the visibility and attendance of the Tree House English Community Resource Center so that we could meet the needs and wants of a larger student population was accomplished. The vision the students had to hold a nature festival with dancing and games was successful. Two visions made into reality with one big bang.

1. English chairs (I learned this game in Guinea during PST.)
  • Everyone sits in chairs in a circle with one person in the middle. (If there are 30 people, then you only have 29 chairs.)
  • The person in the middle says a true statement. For example, I like ice cream.
  • If you like you ice cream, then you have to stand up and find a new chair. The person who doesn't find a new chair, stands in the middle and says a true statement.
Because we were outside, we did not bring out 60 chairs. Instead we used newspaper as chairs and stood on the pieces of paper.

2. Blind obstacle course race (I learned this game in Africa too.)
  • Create an obstacle course using people.
  • One person is blindfolded, and their teammate leads them through the obstacle course using only voice directions.
  • You can have several teams and have a race.
How to improve the event:

The one criticism I have is that I led the activities that had been planned by the students because we were outside and needed a STRONG voice to take charge and use English in a loud teacher way. I think next time we will try our best to have it more student led.

1 comment:

M said...

congratulations to you and your students this look completely awesome!They must have had a blast!