Uncovering the benefits of a school trip to China

Published: 16th September 2015

 “I see that it is by no means useless to travel, if a man wants to see something new” 
Jules Verne

While the chances of taking on a Phileas Fogg adventure around the world is something most dream about, the opportunity to cross the seas and explore somewhere far and new is still very much a realistic goal. However, when that trip is made it is crucial to maximise the chance to delve into the culture and savour the travel experience. 

Introducing China

Chinese culture | Travelbound

Known to be a cradle of civilisation, China attracts school groups looking to gain an insight into its 5,000 year-old past. The culture, language, and sights all offer students a unique experience unlike anywhere else. The cities and rural areas melt into an intriguing landscape consisting of an assortment of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and modern structures made for the thriving business sector. For a long time China has been developing at a speed unmatched by other nations both in terms of population and technology. However, throughout this time the nation has not forgotten where they have come from. They have managed to embrace the mod-cons of ‘now’ while holding onto a proud ancestry. A country as diverse as its cuisine, China allows teachers to provide learning opportunities that stretch across multiple subjects while enabling students to experience a wholly new culture. 

Expanding life experiences in China

In the rush to achieve new breakthroughs in technology there has become a need to hold onto the traditions of the past and what makes a community unique. The Chinese want to engage more with their homeland and this opens up more opportunities for school groups. Whether it is a street stall where you can interact with locals or a Kung Fu Show in Beijing where traditions are communicated indirectly, there is a huge amount to gain from a school trip to China. There are the obvious benefits of having a local guide to support school groups on their tour; providing useful insight into life within the city and rural environments. 

Visiting China extends beyond the experiences associated with stepping out of the airport in Beijing and feeling a change in temperature wrap itself around you like a welcoming hug. The experiences students will be able to take on extend learning to include aims across the curriculum. Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle, refers to a nature-deficit disorder that is defined as ‘the growing gap between nature and human beings’. This isn’t in relation purely to taking life learning outdoors on a orienteering expedition in Sherwood Forest, but instead it can be defined as a lack of exploring life in all its forms. Important still is placing this learning in context. It’s about helping to build emotional fitness and exposing students to new experiences that not only support knowledge but skills. By engaging all of the senses at once in a new environment, students are presented with the optimum state of learning. China certainly affords students the opportunity to build up their life experiences with the contrasting environments of Beijing to Xian and Shangahi to Qufu exhibiting the various facets of daily life in the world’s largest economy state.

What pins Beijing on the map?

Group visiting the Great Wall of China | Travelbound

Beijing offers the ideal place to dive into the country’s heritage with some of China’s most notable landmarks in close proximity to one another. With numerous temples and museums providing additional insight into the Ming and Qing dynasties as well as offering a view on Maoism and its place in the subsequent communist ideology, the Chinese capital provides comprehensive coverage of major points in the nation’s history. It is of little surprise as China’s political and cultural centre that Beijing remains the point where most school groups decide to start there adventure into the People’s Republic. 

Walk into Tiananmen Square and students will be walking onto the site of countless key moments in China’s history, including the founding of the People’s Republic of China by Chairman Mao. The history of the area dates back further to the Ming Dynasty and remains an important cultural landmark. It provides the perfect setting for students to begin to develop their questions surrounding its significance in Chinese culture. 

The history lesson continues in Beijing with a visit to The Forbidden City where teachers can enhance the learning experience of their students by guiding them in understanding the nature of an ancient civilisation. Home to emperors for over 500 years, the array of decorated rooms and ornamental halls give students the platform to ask perceptive questions. This is where a school trip to China varies greatly to visiting the local museum. Immersed within a culture, students will start to understand the diversity of societies. They will be able to make connections between the belief systems of emperors and how buildings, including the Temple of Heaven, played a part in sacrifices and worship. 

Beijing’s cultural gems equally lend themselves to art students with the opportunity to learn about the history behind the designs, styles and inspiration from ancient times up to the present day. The unique design behind each structure encourages students to think critically and develop their own art and design. The 798 Art Zone extends the exploration of traditional design elements to the more contemporary interpretations of China’s Maoist period. Given time to sketch, students can explore ideas and record their experiences. There is the chance to evaluate creative works which also provide fresh inspiration. One of China’s most iconic landmarks remains the Great Wall of China, which gives school groups the opportunity to explore the historic site built to protect the Chinese Empire from northern invaders. Its form also provides art students with a stimulus to consider its structural design and how this may be recorded. The educational value of a school trip to Beijing alone can therefore be seen to cater for subject areas across the wider curriculum.  

Shanghai at noon; exploring China’s business hub

 “This is what happens when you leave home. You meet people.” 

Phileas Fogg

Whether it is within the school’s locality or on the streets of Shanghai, teachers will recognise that curricular outdoor learning is facilitated by drawing upon circumstances and people from the local community. The city of Shanghai is a hive of activity simply buzzing with businesses. As China’s centre for business, the city is the obvious choice for budding entrepreneurs seeking extra insight from some of the world’s industry leaders. Teachers of business studies will find a Shanghai City Tour beneficial to their students in providing an overview of the city’s commercial and financial centre along the Bund

Shanghai | The Bund | China | Travelbound

The Pearl of China represents the amalgamation of natural beauty meeting man-made ingenuity. Despite attracting school groups for the heavy focus on business and enterprise, China’s largest city also provides students with a cultural feast for the eyes and artistic mind. Located next to the City God Temple, Yu Garden was constructed in the style of the Ming Dynasty and has a history spanning 500 years. Divided into 6 areas, students can meander through the gardens, explore the layout and reflect on the site’s purpose in Chinese culture. It proves to be a worthwhile stop and insight into teahouses and tea ceremonies as an art form. Such a visit allows students to foster curiosity and deepen their understanding of the Chinese traditions. This is further supported with a trip to the Jade Buddha Temple, which tells the story of the two Buddha statues brought over from Burma by the monk Huigan to the temple which was later destroyed during the fall of the Qing Dynasty. Art students in particular will be in their element in China with plenty of inspire their creative minds while also providing unique artefacts that allow for investigative and evaluative assessments.  An obvious example of this is the China Art Museum which is an architectural masterpiece in itself. Opened to the public in 2012, the museum houses a range of modern and contemporary pieces of art. Relating to Shanghai’s historical and cultural development, the exhibits tell a story of change while showcasing work from some of the most famous artists in China. 

Terracotta Warriors | Xian | China | Travelbound

Taking on a multi-centre tour in China

Travel to the city of Xian and students will embark on a journey through the relics of an ancient civilisation. One of the most famous points of interest remains the Terracotta Warriors. The display of nearly 7,000 warriors, constructed to protect the emperor in the afterlife, is an outstanding display allowing for school groups to explore the traditions of the Qin Dynasty. Students can also begin to understand the process of change as they explore the Tang Dynasty Art Museum. Providing a unique overview of customs, folklore, music and paintings, the museum allows students to engage with the ancient arts still widely practiced in East Asian cultures, including calligraphy. 

Studying and experiencing Chinese culture and tradition

“Never be in a hurry. You’ll miss the best parts in life.” 

Around the World in Eighty Days, 1956

Visit Qufu | China | Travelbound

It is these unique experiences that contribute to students’ personal and social development. Engaging with and understanding a new culture; its past and how its history through the dynasties have shaped traditions and encouraged change. China is very much a country that has embraced change but not forgotten its history. Across the urban environment remains elements of years past with monuments telling a story of emperors, armies and the Chinese people pulling through. The broad choice of excursions available to teachers allow for attainment goals across the curriculum to be achieved while shaping the whole child. It is important to consider how the China experience will educate the whole child in authentic experiences, while promoting a hands-on learning context within the real world. In the teacher’s bid to search and find more meaningful ways to teach and learn, China offers a bridge between the modern and ancient world paving the way for cross-curricular links to be found across China’s key cities. Whether school groups choose a trip to Beijing or decide on taking a multi-centre trip to historical Qufu and the outstanding Mount Tai, teachers can be confident they are in a position to combine good teaching with good outdoor learning experiences that will reinforce their teaching back in the classroom. If the key ingredients to students’ success are the chance to prove knowledge, application, analysis and evaluation, China certainly stands as the mixing pot that can provide the stimulus for this to become a reality. 

To find out more about school cross curricular trips to China simply request a quote or contact the team on 01273 265265.

By Tim Jenkins

 

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