Saturday, January 16, 2010

Excursions / Field trips are important for learning

Yesterday I had the pleasure to accompany a year 7 group on a field trip to the Kowloon Walled City Park in Kowloon. I have been working with this group to help them find resources on this very specific part of Hong Kong's history and geography, teaching them about Google advanced search, wonderwheel, timeline and image searches to refine what their keywords and to refine the information they find. This small phenomena of Hong Kong will not appear in databases or mainstream publications. The local paper archives will have it documented, (yet to retrieve them as the site keeps crashing or the images are too small to be read) but the most prolific source of information for background knowledge was wikipedia.

Through their reading the students found out abut the city, the history and the stories behind it. They really were not that engaged with the exercise of finding out about this part of Hong Kong, it was just something else they had to do for school.

They set off with all excited about the half day excursion with their clip boards, questions, cameras and pencils. Upon arrival they couldn't wait to explore, but what happened was pure inquiry learning.

The current site of the Kowloon Walled City is now a park with various exhibitions showcasing what used to be there. They burst through the park gates absorbing and immersing themselves in the site and exhibits. They pressed every button, read every word and took pictures of everything. They were asking questions and we were directing them to look for the answers and then something wonderful happened ... a man who used to visit friends in the Kowloon Walled City was there, and was happy to answer questions the students had, they listened quietly while his answers were translated from Cantonese into English by one of our students, and asked more and more questions as he helped them to understand the conditions and lifestyles of those who lived inside the city, as well overwhelming facts about the city (33,000 people living in 350 buildings on a site of just 6.5 acres) One of our students recognised him from being on television for his exceptional talent of creating paper cuts (a traditional Chinese art) using only his fingers to create. He was happy to demonstrate his talent and we came home with some souvenirs to mount as an exhibition of our day.

After speaking with this primary source, we moved onto the further exhibits - by this time the question booklet had been forgotten, and exploration and photography was the order of the day.

As we were heading toward the buses students had even more questions - "why did they pull it down" "where would the people have gone" plus many more high level questions - they now cared about the city and what happened to it.

One of the assessment exercises is to become a resident of the Kowloon Walled City and to describe your life in the city, the other will be to revisit Wikipedia as a class, evaluate the information there and add to it where possible. I really think the students will be engaged and interested now that they have been immersed.

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