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"YingHua in Beijing" Summer Program Announcement

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by Liao,Bonnie on 2010-10-15

Another sunny day dawned on Wednesday. We began by bringing the two groups back together for a debrief of the previous evening's conversations. We shared with the students some of the sentiments that had been shared the previous evening, inviting the students to listen with an open mind and an open heart, so that they could better understand how their own behaviors might be perceived in ways they hadn't thought of before. The students took everything in good stride. The YingHua students didn't mind hearing that they're a bit messy with their things and that they seem reluctant to spend time with their Dongdong partners; the Dongdong students were amused at "complaints" of their love of television and occasionally high decibel levels. This conversation jelled the work of the previous evening, and everyone left feeling more empowered to relate well to their counterparts.

We then headed to a nearby section of the Great Wall called Jiugukou. By the time we arrived it was hot, and we set out through brambly underbrush up a steep trail to...unfortunately not the Great Wall. Just as we were approaching the top of the trail, where it meets the Wall after about an hour of the hike, we came upon a section that had been washed out, evidently by the recent torrential rains. So we had to turn around, disappointed. Though the prospect of not having to climb any further seemed to lift spirits quickly. Everyone took a few minutes to relax and rehydrate at the bottom before we got on the bus and returned to our base.

The afternoon brought two more activities, this time indoors, out of the heat. The first was a bridge-building competition. The YingHua and Dongdong students were each divided into four groups, and then each group was paired with a group from the counterpart program, leaving four teams, half Yinghua and half Dongdong. Their task: to take a small amount of modest-looking materials (a few toothpicks, two chopsticks, paper and tape) and build two half-bridges that could be joined into an elegant, symmetrical, functional bridge. Per usual, the main challenge (apart from raw engineering and construction!) was communication: each group had only three opportunities to converse with the other group on the same team, through a chosen representative, for a total six minutes (the first time for 1 minutes, the second time for 2 minutes, and the third time for 3 minutes). Therefore communication had to be focused and clear so that the half-bridges would match up and be easy to connect.

After 40 minutes of building and communicating, judgment time came. Each bridge was judged by its design (30 points), symmetry (40 points), and usefulness (30 points), which was assessed by laying a bottle of spring water on the surface of the bridge. Not surprisingly, the bridge that won was also the bridge built by the team, led by Lionel, that seemed to have the strongest communication. The students really threw themselves into this and were rewarded with a fun learning experience.

Right after that came another exercise in communication, this time entirely non-verbal. Again there were four teams, each arranged in a long front-to-back line. The task: successfully communicate a number from back to front without speaking, by tapping on the back of the person in front of you. Each team had a short time to work out its coding system. For instance, 325 might be communicated via 3 taps on the back, then a tickle, then 2 taps, then another tickle, then 5 taps. Some interesting issues emerged around how numbers are thought of differently in the two cultures. There were three rounds of competition. The first round was a two digit number. The second round a 3-digit number. The third round a 4-digit number. The team led by Yvonne was successful in the last two rounds. The team led by Haoran was successful in the last round. The teachers, who were allowed to participate in the last round, were successful in their first attempt.

A hurried dinner then led to the nightcap: a very special drama workshop by a famous director, actress, and teacher from Taiwan named Li Minghua.  Some of the Dong Dong students are part of an acting troupe under her direction.  She led an incredible workshop with our students, doing a series of playful activities that encouraged them to communicate and create together.  These included: small circles of vollies with paper balls; and a pantamime guessing game where five students acted out an emotion, each limited to different means of expression (eyes, face, upper body, entire body, and "all-out" ).

Then each of the six teams were asked to act out four sequential still and silent scenes with other groups guessing the fairytale or Chinese proverb being enacted. Philip L and Philip O were quite the dashing couple as Snowwhite and the Prince. Haoran and William both made lovely swans during two different enactments of the Ugly Duckling, Benoit was the courageous hero, Hou Yi, shooting down 9 suns leaving only one shining on the earth. The other two fairytales that were enacted were "Three Little Pigs" and "Goldilocks and Three Bears." It was great fun to see every student having such a playful time with the Dong Dong students and watching new friendships being forged.

After two days of palpable discomfort and angst on the part of your children, today they really hit a groove. They are now communicating and cooperating much more fluidly and effectively with their Dongdong partners, and what started as two very different, starkly separated groups of kids is now starting to feel like something more akin to one big group.

I have delighted in getting to know each of your children these past few days, and wish the program weren't ending so soon! Thank you so much, all of you, for sharing your amazing children with us!

All the best,

Jason Patent

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