Fletcher Maynard Academy Students Visit Beijing

April first is typically set aside for lightheartedness--usually pranks carried out against unsuspecting friends, teachers, and colleagues. But on this past April 1st a group of middle school students and staff from the Fletcher Maynard Academy (FMA) had more serious matters on their minds. Foremost on most of their minds was the matter of getting to the airport on time. What time should they get on the highway to avoid traffic? Should they take Storrow or 93? Wasn't the road in front of the museum of science closed? Did I pack my toothbrush?  Being late was no option; they couldn't miss their flight to Chicago. For if they didn't arrive in time there'd be no getting to Beijing!

beijing1.jpgYes, a group of intrepid middle schoolers from the FMA and their faithful teachers spent the first full week of April immersing themselves in the rich Chinese culture and touring and learning about the incredible city. Did you know that Beijing has over 11 million people? That's almost twice the population of Massachusetts, and three times that of the Boston Area--not to mention almost 120 times Cambridge! The massive size of the city was immediately apparent to us as we toured, by bus and by feet, through the city and its outskirts. Apparently we'd arrived during the Spring Festival, a holiday when many people from the countryside and smaller cities would descend on Beijing for sightseeing. We had a lot of company at all the remarkable sites that we visited; it seemed like there were people as far as the eye could see!

We started our tour at Tiananmen Square, the largest city square in the world, and then crossed the Tiananmen Gate into the Forbidden City, the former Chinese imperial palace. The Forbidden City was given its name because while it served as a palace, commoners were not allowed inside its gates. The Forbidden City consists of almost 1000 buildings!  Clearly we didn't manage to see them all, but we saw enough of the City during our morning tour to be impressed by the sheer scale and artfulness of the buildings and architecture. Over the course of the week we visited other amazing landmarks such as the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven Park--where we learned Tai Chi, the Beijing Zoo, a Hutong Village, the Yonghe Lamasery, The Olympic Sports Complex, the Great Wall, a local school, and even a Kung Fu show. Yes, we were tired by the end, but it was worth it: what an eye opening and enriching experience for young learners! Our students could certainly have read about all of these landmarks; but reading is not seeing, or breathing, or hearing, or tasting, or walking. Cross cultural awareness and competency--a core tenet of 21st Century skills--cannot be taught; it must be experienced. And because learning is increasingly become inseparable from global awareness and understanding, this mixture of skills and attitudes directly contributes to the Fletcher Maynard mission of cultivating lifelong learners.

beijing2.pngAfter our return the excitement about the trip was so high and contagious that our first meeting for Rome--our middle school trip for the coming school year--was attended by twice as many students as had attended the similar meeting for Beijing. And that's how it happens: word of mouth. When students like something they tell each other about it; excitement builds, and word spreads. If we can motivate and engage even a small group of students then the networks effects that drive the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, IM etc. come into effect: others will want to get in on the fun and (in this case) learning. We'll  be sure to update you on our trip to Rome. Visit our school website at cpsd/us/fma, or call at 617.349.6588 to arrange a visit!
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