Hitting great heights

Updated: 2015-02-15 07:00

(Shanghai Star)

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From the beginning

It is a philosophy shared right across the school, starting with the youngest students in Nursery and Reception where the student-led curriculum encourages even these very young children aged two to five years old to become risk-takers and take ownership of their education, building self-motivation and driving their own learning.

Head of Early Years, Christianne Chappell, calls it "playing to learnand learning to play", and has many examples of very small children making very large steps with the support of excellent teachers. She explains, "A skilled Early Years teacher will not try to dictate or control the activities a child chooses to participate in, they will know what each child’s next step is and use whatever the child is interested in to teach them what they need to know next. This personalized and individual approach ensures all students maximize their potential."

One typical learning experience started with a pirate game on the colourful outdoor playground. As the game progressed, and with the guidance of the teacher, the children themselves led their learn- ing, using their early phonics and writing skills to name and make a flag for the boat, and their numeracy knowledge to make numbered coins for sunken treasure. All the while collaborating and learning essential social skills.

Building confidence and resilience

There is a recurring message: Encourage children to take risks, allow them to make and learn from mistakes and celebrate their successes.

Visiting BISS Pudong in November, Education and Organisational Coach, Clive Leach, who advocates positive education practices, observed the “passion, energy and commitment” of teachers toward developing happy, inspired and optimistic children who are willing to take on challenges, set goals and make a dif erence to the world around them.

In the BISS Pudong Junior School, students of all ages are encouraged to take on leadership roles to continually improve life for the whole school community. The Junior School Student Council doesn’t just meet and discuss good ideas, they are doers. On any given day you will see students volunteering as Library Helpers, Hub Helpers (encouraging other students to make healthy lunch choices), or offering the hand of friendship to a student sitting on the playground “friendship bench”.

When the Middle School students in Years 6 to 8 set out on their fi ve-day project week trips to far-flung China destinations Conghua, Yangshuo and Xiamen, that confidence and resilience building was fully evident. The students were not of on a casual vacation, but on a mission to make a dif er-

ence in the communities they visited. Each year group had planned and fundraised for important activities, including school renovations, implementing recycling programmes and mangrove planting which, while often tiring and diffcult, proved a highlight for the students. Year 8 student, Janavi Sukumar, who collected rubbish and spent a day knee deep in mud planting mangroves, sums up the sentiment, “It turned out to be the most fun I have had in a long time. I feel proud that I was able to help save an island from being eroded away. I look up to the man who wanted to save this island from sinking. I hope I can be as selfless as he was."