This week we had the pleasure of speaking to the Grade 4 team about the School Without Walls project (SWW).
What is SWW?
SWW = traversing the Shenzhen metro, visiting the wet market, buying lunch on a budget, a spaghetti design challenge, movies, late night dodge…all infused with the ESLRs.
Or in more simple terms, it is when kids get to have fun without their parents…and learn how to build trust, teamwork, collaboration, and build community through a non-traditional classroom experience.
Lastly, it is a prep to help students prepare for the Grade 5 overnight trip.
Without further ado, here are their answers.
1. What did you want your students to know or understand?
We wanted them to understand two main things.
First, you are able to work with other people in new ways. It is possible and we actually created activities where they did not work with their friends.
This allowed students to get to know each other in different ways – field trip to wet market, design challenges, athletic games – in activities where you don’t have the time or opportunity to hit in the academic classroom.
Second, to push past their comfort zone. Again, we put students in positions to make new connections. For some of them, it was their first overnight experience.
A bonus we did not see, was that all of us (Ts) were able to learn far more about our students and create stronger bonds with them.
2. What skills did you want your students to gain?
Collaboration – Learn to collaborate with new people to solve various challenges, whether academic, athletic, or social.
Communication – Communicate effectively to learn more about others and facilitate the problem-solving process.
Critical thinking – Analyze and synthesize information to make a plan and carry it out. For example, how to eat on a budget or how to get from point A to point B using the metro (first time for many of them).
Confidence – Ability to be put into new situations and use their knowledge to adapt and figure it out. Like we said, some of them had never been on an overnight experience.
Independent Learner – Learn to do things on their own. Pack their own bag, roll out own sleeping bag, track belongings.
3. How did you teach this lesson in the past?
Usually, we relied heavily on a company to do most of the work. We were very Hands off.
It would be mainly focused on having fun. For example, we would have a “Lock-in, Movie night.”
4. How did you problem-solve and be creative to come up with this new method for this lesson?
The best things are homegrown, so that is what we did, we catered to our students’ needs and created an experience we knew they would one, enjoy, but two, gain the opportunity to learn and grow.
We wanted the focus to be more on team building and the academics (while still be fun!).
In terms of planning, we did it incrementally. We already planned on a weekly basis, so we built in time a few weeks out to chunk it out.
Luckily, we work well as a team and are able to adjust on the fly – trust each other. This actually made the activities more meaningful, as we could pivot on the fly.
Now, let us tell you it was not all rainbows and roses. There were challenges (a lot).
Someone, once said you don’t know what you do not know until you do it.
That was spot on for us, as we got a little stressed as we did not know who does what.
Do we ask parents to purchase things, what about catering…and so much more.
The biggest thing was the logistics and the scope of responsibilities widened as we got closer to the event.
Yet, it all was completed and the success was abundantly evident.
Every student left with a smile on their face, and this was after minimal sleep the night before.
In addition, we were able to see some of the students blossom due to be given an opportunity to show their strengths in a new setting.
Lastly, all the students were “indoctrinated on how overnight school trips are AWESOME.”
This will help then next year and build anticipation for their overnight Grade 5 trip!
BUT…We are already thinking of improvements for next year.
First, building in concentrated time to plan. Again, the logistics of SWW took a lot more than we expected.
Second, taking student suggestions into account, giving them agency to help plan.
Third, how we can utilize Shenzhen better. Although we went to the wet market and other locations, we would like to leverage our local community.
Nom, nom catering – kids liked it
Grade 4 Team – contact them if you are planning an overnight experience.