China: Day 6 – Wednesday, May 23

Chinese school students performance on-stageToday we had the opportunity to visit neighboring learning centers in the Qingdao village. Our first stop was at the local elementary school. We walked through the bright hallways and noticed the sunlight pouring in through the big windows and potted plants in every possible nook, and I knew it must be a special place. Although the school was not a brand-new facility, it was clear that the learning environment was not reliant on the physical structure of the building or the available resources, but rather the teachers. We stopped in an English class and noticed the work the students were completing. The class was working on grammar through reading and writing sentences. One student was invited to recite a scripted story in English about Christmas. She was very excited to share her English with us, ending the story with asking if we wanted to build a snowman. We were honored that she shared this with us, and I was struck with her courage! One immediate difference I noticed in this elementary school as compared to schools in the U.S. is the immense respect the students show for the class and the teacher. The students stand up by their seats to answer when they are called upon; all students sit up straight in their seats, and they are genuinely eager to participate in the class. That being said, all children have fun – during recess, the children stood near us and we exchanged many “ni haos” (hellos). We took a selfie with them and the children were so excited! After this visit, we visited the village preschool. It was a beautiful day so the children were outside playing when we arrived. Although there were some purposeful structures for climbing and exploring, most of the children were squatting in a very large sand pit. We did not hesitate to join in the fun and get dirty. I found a little girl on the edge of the group and was intrigued about what she was making with the sand. The little girl and I said “ni hao,” then it was back to work. She was busy creating a little house using the materials available to her – a small plastic cube, sand, leaves and sticks. She delicately filled the cube with sand and evaluated it. I handed her a leaf and she incorporated it by placing it on top. She found a few more leaves to make a design. Next she found a plastic bottle from the pile of recycled materials and continued the process. We continued playing until we had a little neighborhood. What struck me is that although the materials were simple, the children were enjoying the activity and were very serious about their creations. We enjoyed visiting these schools and meeting the children! Later in the afternoon we were welcomed into the multipurpose room at the Qingdao Children’s Welfare Institution to view the performance the children eagerly prepared for us. The children danced and sang for us. We greatly enjoyed the show and noticed both the effort and joy of all the children involved. The day reminded me of one of Fred’s favorite quotes, taken from The Little Prince, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Saint Vincent students take selfie with Chinese school students


Chinese school students performance


Chinese student playing in the sand


School in Qingdao, China


Students sitting in a classroom in China


Chinese students playing in the sand with Saint Vincent student