29 October 2017

Camp Teaching in Chengdu, Part 2 of 3 . . .

I just got home from running at the park near my apartment in Tallahassee. During said run, I face-planted hard . . . I smashed my glasses--the left lens popped out and landed about 3 feet away from me, along with my phone. I scraped up the left side of my body. And, once I stood up, I noticed about 1/4 inch layer of dirt all over my face, neck, legs, and clothes. I don't know what happened. I guess I hit a root that was popping up out of the ground. One moment I was running and listening to Beyonce, the next moment I was on the ground. It was like the slo-mo setting on the iPhone camera: starts out regular speed, moves into slow-mo as I fly into the air and double-bounce on the ground, then goes back to regular speed. I feel like the sound of my fall ricocheted throughout the park when I hit the ground. It was the fall heard round the world. So no better time than now to blog about my second week of summer teaching in China!

My second week in China was when things started to happen that were removed a bit from me specifically. Our electricity went out in the apartment, twice. The wifi stopped working. And, it rained a lot! I don't have any pictures of this, but just imagine me at 5am, standing in the rain holding an umbrella and my phone, checking wifi on the street corner next to an unopened coffee shop.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I stayed in a wonderful part of Chengdu--very similar to a neighborhood in New York City. So it was curious to me that suddenly the electricity went out and the wifi stopped working. Below is a street just one over from where I stayed. Look at all of the scooters!

One of my favorite parts about China are all of the people selling things off the backs of small trucks or motorbikes. You can literally sell anything off the back of a bike! This sort of mobile selling community is fascinating to me. We have food trucks in the States and people that set up tables to sell things, but you don't see a lot of people selling things from motorbikes. There is something different that happens when selling off the back of a bike--it feels more spontaneous and self-containing. I always thought it would be interesting to build an art bike and travel around with supplies and teach pop-up classes on street corners. Perhaps in the next phase of my life. Just look how gorgeous the flowers are below! Even now, I am completely smitten!

Let's talk about this beer purchase for a bit . . . I decided to mosey into the liquor store that was next door to my house. And, I noticed that the beer prices were abnormally low! And if you show them a local phone number, you get an additional discount. I got the above lot for $30 USD. Some of those beers shown above sell for $10 each in the States. So to get this whole lot for $30 was pretty exciting! Random, I know.

During our second week of camp, the school took us out for fun. They took my roommate out to a bar and then a nightclub. They took me to a restaurant. While I could easily say this might have been a bit ageist, it wasn't. I was expected to go to both outings, but only chose to attend the restaurant one. And, you can see above, the fancy attire that I decided to wear to said establishment. (Flip-flops, hat, dress, pants, and no make-up. #ftw)

I found it hilarious when we were catching a cab to head to the restaurant. We were standing in the middle of the street, cars on all sides of us, traffic as far as the eye could see. Nine of us looking for a driver. It was crazy!

When we got to the restaurant, we all ordered beers plus one giant Keg-like thing that was delivered to the table. Budweiser. No complaints here! It was cold and tasty. There was a fan blowing on us from the next table over. So the beer and the fan worked together to keep us relatively cool. 

I can't remember if the little containers were oil or some other kind of additive, but I remember we used them all to start the pot off. It was kind of like fondue. We all filed downstairs to get a tray filled with raw meats and veggies. If you look at the image of the full restaurant above, you can see on the upper left corner all of the meats and veggies offered. Just in front of the meats and veggies was a spice bar. I went to town on the spice bar. In one bowl, you mix up all of the spices you gather and then once the veggies are cooked, you dip them into the spice bowl. It was yummy!! Quail eggs are the best when cooked like this!

My walks during the second week intensified. I only had 4 students in my classes, so my prep time was lessened. I continued with my 2 hour walks during lunch and even stopped in for a massage on one of the days. Actually that massage was one of the best massages I have ever had. I thought I would get the chance to go back to my masseuse, but my time ran out. 

Above is a picture of what ended up being my lunch more times than not: green tea biscuits, white rice, and a coke. I loved that I could run next door to a convenient store and buy rice! I want this now--so easy, just add soy sauce or chicken! My breakfasts were usually coffee buns. Nothing unusual, just a coffee crusted bun that originated from a bakery in Bukit Mertajam, and now is sold all over Asia. I ate them in Singapore all the time, too . . . Perfect with coffee or bubble tea.

Because of the small class size this week, we were able to accomplish a lot of really fun projects. We continued with our drawing exercises led by Mr. Rob of Arts for Kids Hub--I'm telling you: these videos helped so much with arts-based terminology and language lessons--and focused all of the meat of our lessons on community. 

I am posting the action plans that I completed during this week's camp, below. I'm doing this because I think it gives a glimpse into my planning process. And it also shows the freedom I give my students when I am working with them. What I have listed as "purpose" is the general idea that I try to keep in mind each day as we go through our art making experience together. Additionally, this was the first time that I included a social studies planning component into my classes (even though most of my lessons usually have some sort of social drive to them anyhow). 

You will notice that I don't give too much information in my plans. I feel like this allows for change and development in each day's activities. And allows for student input, like if they are feeling like one project speaks to them more than another project does. This also doesn't tie me down to a specific outcome in case the class goes in a new and different direction.

Monday – What is Community
Social Studies – Place as a Mirror of Self
Art Project – Collaborative Weaving Hut

Purpose: Defining community creates a strong foundation for individual, cultural, and societal growth.

Materials: Fabric scraps, classroom set of scissors, old maps for collaging, old magazines for collaging, white paper (18 inches x 24 inches), classroom set of black Sharpies, India ink, liquid watercolors, classroom set of colored pencils, manual pencil sharpeners for each student, construction paper.

Introductory Activities
  • Facilitate a discussion about memory and place 
  • Show videos from Beijing Project 
  • Demo a small weaving project and discuss possible techniques 
  • Show the video of the book Same, Same But Different 

1. Share answers on Special Places worksheet in small groups.
2. Create map collages of personal geographic places of importance (home, school, extra curricular, family, etc.).
3. Choose a space together for the collaborative weaving hut.
4. Begin weaving by tying strips of reclaimed fabric to various points and watch as the project grows and changes.

Tuesday – Elements of Community

Social Studies – Scouting Out the Elements of Community
Art Project – Felt Sashes with Community Patches

Purpose: Learning about the distinct elements that make up a community helps students understand collective variation.

Materials: White paper (18 inches x 24 inches), classroom set of black Sharpies, India ink, liquid watercolors, one bolt of green felt, classroom set of colored pencils, manual pencil sharpeners for each student, construction paper, one map of Chengdu (not for cutting), map pins.

Introductory Activities
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood and take notice of the different elements that make up the community. 
  • In small groups, discuss parts of Chengdu that make it a special city. 

1. Design patches for different elements of your community (family, school, grandparents, church, temple, etc.)
2. Sew patches onto felt sash.
3. Discuss community: what do they need, how can you contribute, what do you think makes a community successful?
4. Map out different areas in Chengdu that indicate important community hubs.

Wednesday – Community Helpers

Social Studies – Activist Heroes
Art Project - Superheroes

Purpose: People hold different roles in communities that help them grow and flourish.

Materials: White paper (18 inches x 24 inches), classroom set of black Sharpies, India ink, liquid watercolors, one bolt of blue felt, classroom set of colored pencils, yarn, string, manual pencil sharpeners for each student, construction paper.

Introductory Activities

  • Discuss the variety of roles that people engage in throughout the community. 
  • What is your role? How will you take part in your community? 
  • What does a community hero look like? Who are your heroes? 

1. In small groups, create a zine that tells the story of a hero in your community.
2. Swap zines with other groups to learn about their stories.
3. Draw a self-portrait of you as a superhero in your community.
4. Present superhero self-portrait to class and hang up for all to see.

Thursday - Contributions

Social Studies – Community Road Trip
Art Project – Clay Explorers

Purpose: Being an active participant in a community inspires students to think about how they might contribute to collaboration, organization, and service.

Materials: White paper (18 inches x 24 inches), air-dry clay, classroom set of colored pencils, classroom set of crayons, pencils, classroom set of Sharpies, manual pencil sharpeners for each student, a variety of paint colors.

Introductory Activities

  • Using the information we gathered from our neighborhood walk on the previous day, the students will begin to map out the community directly around Max/Ivy. 
  • Watch community explorer video 

1. Draw out a map of the area directly around our school.
2. Add all of the community details that we took notice of on our walk (people, places, and things).
3. Design an “explorer vehicle” on paper that can help you to navigate our community.
4. Create your “explorer vehicle” out of clay and paint it.
5. Once dry, play with your explorer vehicle on our hand drawn map, navigating the community.

Friday – Community Rules
Social Studies – Law of the Land
Art Project –Mural Painting

Purpose: Understanding community laws helps students to recognize the important role of rules in a communal environment.

Materials: Masonite board in 3 equal sizes (5 feet x 4 feet), pencils, classroom set of Sharpies, manual pencil sharpeners for each student, a variety of paint colors, India ink.

Introductory Activities
  • Decide on the rules and community laws that we follow in our classroom and how they relate to the rules and laws followed in Chengdu. 
  • Look at a slideshow of murals created in and around Chengdu. 
  • In small groups, discuss ideas for a small mural and how it can relate to following the laws of our land. 

1. Illustrate community rules followed by citizens in Chengdu.
2. Discuss our illustrations and how these community rules help guide citizens.
3. Enlarge and combine illustrations to create a composition on our mural boards.
4. Paint mural and hang up in classroom for fellow teachers, students and parents to see.
5. Reflect on the week’s activities.

Our weekend journey took us two hours outside of the city to an irrigation system, which was a massive park with beautiful scenery and a huge temple. From the Travel China Guide website"Dujiangyan Irrigation System is honored as the 'Treasure of Sichuan', which still plays a crucial role in draining off floodwater, irrigating farms and providing water resources for more than 50 cities in the province.

In China, Chengdu is always praised as the Tian Fu Zhi Guo, which means 'Nature's Storehouse'. Over 2,200 years ago, the city was threatened by the frequent floods caused by flooding of the Minjiang River (a tributary of the Yangtze River). Li Bing, a local official of Sichuan Province at that time, together with his son, decided to construct an irrigation system on the Minjiang River to prevent flooding. After a lengthy study and a lot of hard work by the local people, the great Dujiangyan Irrigation System was completed. Since then, the Chengdu Plain has been free of flooding and the people have been living peacefully and affluently."

This was a really fun place to visit. There were lots and lots of people, lots of shopping, eateries, and hiking. It was touristy in spots, with people dressing up like monkey gods and pandas and then hoping you will pay them to take a picture with them. I just snapped a picture of them as I was walking past. The monkey god is known to be a trickster character full of pranks. You can read more about him here. I love, love, love these monkey god costumes! 

A cream bun sold on the side of the street! So yummy! But I was hoping that it would be filled with minced pork--those are said to be the best. But I never found them! Check out The Food Ranger for more fun food from Chengdu . . . 

This was a fascinating find. A completely Muslim restaurant, right on the corner. A very small percentage of Chinese people are Muslim, so I was excited to see this. It was funny, we found them because I recognized some of the things they were saying on the loud speaker. 

All things panda!!

The weird things that make my legs wobbly as I get older . . . Walking on a very crowded extension bridge over rushing water. It was literally bouncing up and down as we got to the center of it. I was sure the whole thing would snap and that would be the end of us. 

The views from one of the highest points of the temple were remarkable. I mean you could see forever! We were lucky to be there on a day with no rain. It is probably freezing cold there now . . . Chengdu is about in the same latitude spot as Chicago in the United States. So the temperatures are roughly the same. 

On this day, I think I walked about 38,000 steps. We walked up and down steps, over bridges, up and down hills, all over!

It has been very difficult to keep up my posting as a twice monthly affair during this first semester of my doctoral program . . . But I am doing my best! I enjoy putting these posts together and wish that more time was available! Soon, soon! Thank you so much for your patience and reading all the things. 

In the coming weeks, I will be featuring two interviews with fellow teachers and artists, my last week of teaching in China, and what the heck I'm doing in Tallahassee! Stay tuned folks! It's going to be exciting! XO