Keystone's Experiential Learning Program: Exploring Anhui's Cultural Heritage
Posted 05/18/2018 10:10AM


Experiential Learning Programs (ELP’s) is an important component of Keystone’s academic framework. It includes service to the local community, field visits to various provinces across China, and seeks to expand the boundaries of learning beyond the classroom. This year, Keystone students from grades 4 through 10 participated in experiential learning programs from May 7th to May 11th. Students and faculty learned more about each other and gained in depth knowledge about nature, participated in many of the local, lesser known cultural customs in China, and used this hands-on learning experience to immerse themselves in this diversity and richness of China.



Grade 9 students traveled to Anhui, China, an eastern province well known for its famous Huangshan Mountains. It is a region known for its distinctive Tunxi district and surrounding ancient villages that have withheld the test of time through its preservation of the Huizhou classical architectural style. During the week, students immersed themselves in the richness and beauty of the Anhui culture through a variety of cultural and artistic activities and delved into the artisanal culture of the province. 



Filled with excitement since their departure from Keystone, grade 9 students visited the Museum of Huizhou Culture & Carving on the first day of their expedition, where they learned ancient techniques Anhui people used to create carvings on wood and bamboo. The students emotionally connected to the artistic techniques of the Anhui people and instinctively recognized the beauty of this particular art form. Afterwards they participated in a Huizhou Stamp Carving Workshop and an array of other workshops that taught students about the history of cultural preservation in Anhui and its importance then and now. 



Upon reflection after the first several days in Anhui, grade 9 student Jason Yan stated:

“The culture is Anhui province is still alive. Chinese people still live in ancient villages and their way of living is still very traditional in the culture and it’s evident that it has been passed on from generation to generation. This is truly fascinating!”



For many grade 9 students, this particular ELP trip to Anhui also served as a contemporary lesson in history, as they learned and experienced first-hand traditional and ancient Chinese culture. At Keystone, the diversity, richness, and complexity of Chinese history and culture are taught in the classroom, but ELP trips provide students the opportunity to experience China, their home country, from a completely different lens. For many students, such as Sabrina Liang, the experience in Anhui “taught me that wood carvings and artwork are very important to the Anhui people and important for storytelling in Chinese history. I was really impressed by a particular horse sculpture made entirely of wood. I have been studying sculpture in my visual arts class, and when I saw this sculpture it inspired me to want to learn more about these skills and techniques the Anhui people used so that I can improve upon my own craft”. 





Other activities that students immersed themselves in included a traditional Chinese brush making workshop, where students were fascinated and amazed by the sheer number of procedures required to make a brush to be used for calligraphy and painting. On Day 3 of the trip, students partook in a community service activity, visiting Elders’ Homes in the ancient villages of Anhui, where they participated in dialogue with Elders of the community and listened to stories about the generations and shifts in China that surpass textbook knowledge. Students also showcased their individual artistic talents through a Huizhou Ink Cake Gold Painting, and recreating paintings using traditional Anhui painting techniques. 



The last two days of the trip concluded with a village tour of Hong Cun, in which students observed ancient architecture and sketching, and an exciting hike on the Huangshan mountains. For these young learners, the ELP trip to Anhui instilled in them a deep pride and appreciation for Chinese cultural heritage, a lesson they will take with them for life. TOK teacher and librarian Patricia Powers, one of ten teachers accompanying the students on this ELP trip stated, “The grade 9 students came prepared with a lot of knowledge and respect for Anhui. This ELP really gave students the opportunity to be hands on and experience learning beyond the classroom. I hope it also gave them the experience of recognizing how unique and special Chinese culture is, as they mature and ground themselves in their own identities as Chinese citizens when they leave Keystone.”      






Thanks for  Student Shiyu Zhao、Teacher Martina O Connor and Teacher Patricia Power  to provide photos.


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