Keystone middle school students recently took a journey throughout time through a unique a course titled ‘River Civilization’. In this unit, students learned about ancient civilizations around the world, from Mesopotamia in Egypt to civilizations during one of China’s earliest dynasties. The unit culminated with an exhibition for all members of the community to witness all that they have learned and take a journey through history as well.
‘China and the World’ is a unique course combining the history of Chinese Civilizations and World Civlizations. The idea to combine two fascinating historical periods was born out the creative spirits of Chinese history teachers at the Academy, and foreign teachers passionate about their craft. Thanks to the enterprising initiatives of teachers in the history department, students fully immersed themselves in Keystone’s bilingual environment, switching between two different cultures in two different languages simultaneously, with the same goals, understandings, and standards in each of their history classes.
Keystone Chinese Cilizations teacher Yao Lei noted the profound importance this distinctive class had on students, and highlighted the merits of such as course at the Academy. “A course, taught by two teachers from different languages and different cultural backgrounds, with the same understanding goal and connections in different cultures, can promote the development of students' bilingual ability and the thinking from different cultural perspectives,” stated Lei. “In addition, the Chinese Civilization history in this course runs through the main history of China, and with reference to the national curriculum standards of China's compulsory educational model, and it maintains the chronology of historical development and retains the important content and characteristics of different periods under the framework of MYP concept-driven and inquiry-based learning. At the same time, in order to inspire deeper thinking in students’ mother tongue, the Chinese civilization history class also pays close attention to the historical materials in Chinese in order to inspire students to explore deeper themes and problems. It gives our students various perspectives that inform and enhance their thinking.”
Mrs. Klorine Keja, a Middle School History teacher at the Academy, spoke with Keystone’s Marketing and Communications Department to discuss this unique course and the merits of a blended curricular unit for younger learners.
M&C: How does the History of Chinese Civilizations and the History of World Civilizations integrate into one course? What is the official name of this combined course?
Mrs. Keja: The official name of this course is China and the World, where the students have two teachers who teach in different languages but use the same MYP unit. This MYP unit will have the same title, concept and SOI (statement of Inquiry), but different content. This unit was about River Valley Civilizations, where in the English China and the World course we talked about Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and Egypt; and in the Chinese China and the World course we talked about the Shang Dynasty (Yellow River Civilization). In both courses, we used the same overarching structure of CARTS, an acronym we use to define the criteria of civilizations (Complex Institutions, Advanced Cities, Record Keeping, Advanced Technology and Specialized Workers).
M&C: What was the learning process like for students and how did they transfer knowledge in class?
Mrs. Keja: Throughout this unit the students were split into three different groups: Mesopotamia, Indus and Egypt. Each student received a booklet with specific information to that region, but also general information that was the same for everyone. Throughout the unit the students learned a little about all civilizations and a lot about their “own” civilization. This was specific to English China and the World. In Chinese China and the World, we focused on the Xia and Shang Dynasties. During the unit, students made big maps to understand the importance of geography, created writing tools, and prepared food. As a means of a formative assessment, students practiced paragraph writing and engaged in games to process their new knowledge. The final assessment, a museum exhibit board, allowed them to compare two civilizations using one of the CARTS criteria. They created a 3-D bilingual essay on the board, using argumentation, evidence, and comparative analysis. It was evident from their presentations that they had thought deeply about their projects.
M&C: What aspects of growth and progress will be brought to students through this unique integration and what benefits will it bring to the development of the course in the future?
Mrs. Keja: As teachers we believe the students will gain a unique view on the concepts that are taught throughout the course. This is actually also what the students say themselves, they mention that they enjoy this course, where they are gaining knowledge from both Chinese and World history using the same concepts and the same MYP unit, but different content. They are able to make easier connections between these two areas, two languages and two subjects. As was demonstrated through this summative, the students were able to switch between the two languages, but also use examples from both civilizations to demonstrate their knowledge and learn more the English vocabulary associated with Chinese history. As the China and the World course continues to be refined in Grade 6 and Grade 7 and expanded into Grade 8, teachers and students both will benefit from the collaboration between the disciplines, working to weave the Chinese Thread into a global context.