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"YingHua in Beijing" Summer Program Announcement

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by Luo,Lifeng on 2008-07-23

Dear Parents,


Here're the activities we've been through. On Monday, we had lunch at a Yang2 Fang2 franchise. This franchise is considered the best hot-pot place in Beijing even better than the traditional brand dong1 lai2 shun4. The lamb specially raised for the restaurant chain is so high quality that you feel as if the meat melts in your mouth.


On Monday afternoon, we had a series of ice-breaker activities to form three teams and to get the kids to know each other's names in the team. They were run by Mr. Clark Glenn and they were fun. (2:30 – 5: 00 p.m.)


In the evening (7:30 to 8:30 p.m.), we did the first leadership training session (see yesterday's note for details) led by Mr. Clark. He emphasized that there's something similar in our experience. A leader would know how to connect with others based on these common experiences.


On Tuesday morning, we rotated the three teams through three activities. One is for crossing a "mine field" in blindfold. The person in blindfold needed to listen to instructions of the teammates about where to move his/her feet to cross an area filled with "mines."


The second activity was to climb across three humps of wood logs. Mr. Clark added the challenge and reinforced the emphasis on teamwork by requiring each team must climb through the humps together each person with one hand holding the rope and the other hand touch the person in the front. This makes the cooperation very challenging!


The third activity was to cross a bridge on a pond of shallow water. The bridge has about 10 nets each with a hole on it. The whole team needed to cross one net first and then cross the second one with the oldest two kids being blindfolded. No one fell into the water! (8:30 to 11:50 a.m.)


In the afternoon, (1:30 – 4:50 p.m.), we started with an activity, in which a YingHua kid would pair up with a DongDong kid and they each would teach the other one something they knew and the other did not. Some taught their partners a song, or a rhyme, etc. The point of this activity is that everyone can be a teacher. Throughout your life, you can learn a lot if you take all these opportunities to learn.


Then we played a two-team contest to each carry 18 wooden bricks using a wheel barrel to go through an obstacles course 6 times. Every member of the team should participate. The kids should spend 2-3 minutes to strategize. Five kids can touch the wheel barrel supporting it while only one of them is pushing it. The rest of the team (10 kids) should run following the barrel cheering. It's obvious that one of the team was very unified and the other team quickly erupted into in-fights so no one could lead it and to get everyone involved. We did a debriefing afterwards.


The Coach Huang, the coach who had been with us for the past two years, led an activity called "Dragon Boat." Ten kids standing on two separate wooden slabs with one foot on each one facing the same direction. Then they needed to pull up the rope by their foot hoping to get all 10 people to move the right foot at the same time and then the left foot, etc. In this way, they could move forward.


Again, there's a lot of discussions and frustrations in each team. The weaker team lost because of its poor organization not just because it's weaker physical strengths. Coach Huang did the debriefing and a lot of students shared their thoughts. We hope through these activities, they can gain the real life experience of leadership. Even if they were not successful as leaders, they also learned valuable lessons.


Then we went back to the water park, where there were a few extra over the water crossing challenges. We asked the kids to change to slippers and get into the water. Most of the kids got wet – some were involuntary at first and then turned to others to bring them into the water. They certainly released a great amount of energy. In the end, they wanted to get Kevin into the water, but he ran as fast as an antelope and kept throwing any kids in his way into the water. After a couple of failed attempt, with Mr. Clark's help, they successfully brought Kevin into the water – together with Mr. Clark! It was a lot of fun!!


We had dumplings at 5 p.m. The meal time here could be different every day because of the scheduling need. They were pretty good with both vegetarian and non-vegetarian styles.


In the evening, (6:30 – 8:30 p.m.), Mr. Clark led an activity to build "bridges" using toothpicks. Each team needed to design a bridge and have all of its members (4 YingHua and 6 DongDong) to contribute by gluing one section of the bridge.


Two of the groups reached a consensus fairly quickly and got to work. One group completely fell apart with members giving up on each other and could not agree on doing anything meaningful. Mr. Clark appointed Kevin to give this team a push by stepping in as its leader. Then you can see everyone started coming together to make good things happen. I think these are good reflection points after the project is finished. On Wednesday, we'll spend 30-60 more minutes on it and then let the glue dry. On Friday, we'll test which bridge can hold the most weight!


I kept the YingHua kids back to give a debriefing for their performance. While these kids were all great kids, I saw their potentials had been limited by various reasons. For the most part, students who wanted to lead do not understand the dynamics of leadership. In many cases, all they wanted to do was to get the others accept their own ideas. In fact, a good leader may not be the one with great idea, but the one who could organize the team to enable the great idea to be implemented. For instance, when everyone is fighting for his own idea, it's necessary to have a leader to stand up and say, "Let's give every one 30 seconds to illustrate his/her ideas and then we will vote …" It's amazing to see how kids would miss the point of a true leader and mistaken leadership as "everyone accepts my idea." I think I've got more to debrief them this year. Next year, I'd better prepare them for experiencing the leadership!


I've also pointed out to them that they should watch out for "peer pressure." I wanted to pre-empt any rule-breaking behaviors near the end of the program, which kids tend to do thinking I would not be able to "punish" them. This year, the emphasis has always been on characters not punishment. I wanted them to stick to our rules until the last day.


I also asked them to mix up with Chinese students in their rooms. Currently the YingHua kids took the larger room in the suite with TV and the balcony. I asked them to send one person to the smaller room and bring one Chinese kid to the larger room.


Max did a superior job in facilitate a successful switch facing the challenge that one of the Chinese kids refused to cooperate. He first used "direct influence" and, when it's not working, he used indirect influence, which was to ask me for help. He never gave up and running up-and-down stairs five times to finally get things settled.


Contrary to Max, two of the boys' rooms did not switch last night for various reasons/excuses. Mr. Clark "took care of them" and the boys involved apologized to me for not carrying out what they asked to do. Mr. Clark is so good at getting the kids stick to the rules while at the same time being just totally a kid inside himself!


This morning (Wednesday), we gathered at 8:30 a.m. for rock-climbing (8:30 – 10:50 a.m.). There were two ropes and most of the kids claimed they had done it before. So Mr. Clark added the challenges by asking kids to be blindfolded when they climbed and only to listen to their Chinese partner to give them the instructions on where to move their feet. (The Chinese kids would need to listen to their YingHua partner's instructions.) It's proven to be much more challenging than without the blindfold. Andre was one of the first going up and failed three times until Mr. Clark gave him the instructions. He became the first one reach the top blindfolded. Lionel is another one who got to the top blindfolded. I almost got to where Lionel got to (blindfolded) and I lost my grip and came down. It's quite "regrettable." Many other kids tried to climb blindfolded or not. Andrew had never climbed before so it's exciting for him to almost get to the top. If the time allowed, I am sure he'd try again!


We had an early lunch because of the schedule (3 dishes with meat, 5 vegetarian dishes, and green-bean soup). We gathered at 12:30 and ended at 4:30 this afternoon.


We first went through a mountaineering obstacle course (climbing net, going through dark tunnel, passing single cable bridge, stepping up swinging block ladder, etc.). Finally we got to the top of the hill and could see very far. There's a lot of smog though.


Then, all the kids who weigh 90 lb and more could do "flying down" through a 300 meter long descending ride. It's very thrilling, but Max, Andre, and Darren had to walk down with most of the DongDong kids.


After a short bathroom break, the kids went to a craft building for tie-dye and soft-clay sculpture.


(I am writing to you in my room using this time. Later, I'll email it to you during the very limited Internet accessing time.)


We have realized that even though we encourage communications between the YingHua and Dong Dong kids, it's always challenging for them to come up with something meaningful to discuss. Every year's like this.


So we've made a 7-day schedule template, which will be given to each pair of YingHua-DongDong students for them to fill out. This should be a schedule for each kid during their regular school year. I'd like the kids find out what the other kids get involved and how much time they spend on studying, homework, and other activities. Hope this would work well to improve the communication.


From YingHua, we have Mr. Clark Glenn, Kevin, and I. From DongDong, there are SaiSai (my counterpart) and a chief editing director of the DongDong magazine, QianQian, in charge of lodging and food, DaQiang (a strong guy, who can speak English as well), Xiao (a slim former policeman, who's good at any activities we've done, especially rock-climbing), Jun (a photographer and video-recording person), Yang (a young college volunteer, helping out like Kevin to YingHua). We also have invited Coach Huang from KuYuan, who is a professional leadership trainer doing the same thing in China as Mr. Glenn does in the U.S. Coach Huang has been a great complement to Mr. Glenn helping him make activities work better for both Chinese and American kids. He will be our next year's coach again hoping to incorporate some of the activities and skills Mr. Glenn shared this time. I have been the interpreter for Mr. Glenn when he addresses the whole group as well as the interpreter when he and Coach Huang communicate. Kevin stays in the same suite with them and has tried very hard to be the interpreter. We also have a Coach Li, assigned by Survival Island to teach the kids the safety tips at each of the Survival Island activities.


  So much for now.


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