Learning by Doing through a Conference on the COVID- 19 PandemicIssue date：2020-07-30
At the end of the last semester, students of UWC Changshu China participated in a research project and presented their findings at a one day Conference on campus on "The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic". This Project provided an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in a real world context. UWC education puts emphasis on learning by doing and engaging with global issues which is critical for students to gain global perspective and be prepared to become future leaders and change makers.
Michael Martell, an English teacher who led the Project together with student leaders, sharing his thoughts on what students could learn from the Project
COVID-19 pandemic has infected millions of people around the world. The world is in a public health crisis. Under the pandemic, how can mankind cooperate and work together to contain the pandemic and achieve the goal of peaceful and sustainable development? As the millennial generation, we are witnessing the history and have the responsibility to think and learn how to find solutions to such global issues.
Is this world changing for the better? Where are we heading for?
On June 12th, students from UWC Changshu China held a one day conference on “The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic” with community members all over the world participating on site or online. The aim of the Conference is to develop an understanding of academic disciplines, how they interrelate, the various methods, tools and ethical considerations in trying to find a solution to issues relating to the pandemic.
Students and teachers discussing topics ranging from "Examining Xenophobia", to "The Great Divide" and "Sino-US Relations"
The Conference provided an opportunity for community members to collaboratively research on challenging issues, both local and global, through disciplinary and interdisciplinary lenses. Students formed different groups based on their interests and passion. They presented their findings and their views through various forms – from presentations and interactive workshops to performances and film, touching on a wide range of themes, such as, “Xenophobia - miscalling Wuhan/Chinese Virus”, “Eating out during the pandemic: the economic facts behind the dining industry” and “Seeking opportunities from COVID-19 pandemic crisis——the benefits of making use of technology in education” .
A short drama reflecting how people from different cultures react to the measures to contain the pandemic
Debate on "The role of social media during the pandemic"
Introducing the mini film, "Art, Teenagers & Pandemic"
This is the experience of the research team on the topic of "Peace and Conflict" and what they learned through the experience.
Within a week, members of the group did an in-depth study and analyzed the response and communications in relation to the pandemic by various countries and presented their findings through a short drama which is full of humour and thought-provoking.
Drama: Peace and Conflict under the Pandemic
"No, no, we need to revamp this part and work on it again! " Several students in the classroom were in heated discussions on how to carry on with their work. They moved close to the whiteboard, and one of them drew a mind map with different color pens. More and more lines and dots appeared on the whiteboard. Gradually, after more discussions, the complex relationship among different elements became clearer.
This is a glimpse of the research process of the "Peace and Conflict" research team. Students were required to work together to complete the project and gain in-depth understanding of the topic relating to the pandemic within a week. In this process, a complete, systematic, and an effective way of organizing one’s ideas became particularly important. Therefore, design thinking was naturally applied by students in the discussion.
As a unique thinking weapon in the 21st century, design thinking is a methodology to solve problems creatively. It involves comprehensive process which enables people to understand the background of problems, identify the issues, find feasible solutions. The design of the mind map is part of the visualization of design thinking. Some of the group members are also members of the school's Design Thinking club THINKERS, such as Yitian Lu. "We visualize our thinking process and found it help us to communicate and exchange ideas more efficiently." said Yitian, who is one of the facilitators in this event, and has provided the team with brilliant ideas and useful insights of design thinking.
The experience helped students to expand the depth and width of thinking, through collaboration and team work and to break through the limit of one’s own understanding, perception and perspective .
The 21st century is the century of information. For the internet generation, surfing the Internet for information seems to be a natural gift. Internet also serves as a tool to seek inspirations for creative ideas. However, how to analyze, integrate, evaluate and process the information you need from vast amount of data and materials and draw solid and convincing conclusions poses a lot of challenges.
As “ information analysis specialists” in the team, Haoran Lu and Yunyang Fei are responsible for studying the mentality of ordinary people during the pandemic, and the impact of the measures taken by WHO as well as by the governments of various countries.
With their meticulous efforts, these materials were used for sand table simulation, so that actions by various governments during the pandemic can be put together and the complexities of the ever changing international relations can be closely looked into. "The process of looking for information is like panning for gold in sand," said Yunyang Fei. "You have to search for and try very hard to find the little bit useful information from a huge amount of materials, and then connect them together before reaching a conclusion."
In the course of research, one needs to be multi-tasking. Managing and coordinating these different tasks becomes yet another huge challenge. "We work like the CPU of a computer, switching back and forth between different threads without messing up," said Haoran Lu with a smile. This ability to plan and coordinate different tasks will prepare students well in their future university life and career.
Learning by doing and making an impact in the community through taking positive actions have always been the essence of UWC education. However, it's never esay to communicate effectively one's ideas, seek understanding and support, and inspire more valuable thinking among community members. In this case, a strong foundation in humanities is particularly important. Members of the team tried their best to integrate what they have learned through theatre arts, public speaking, English language and literature to convey their messages in a more interesting and powerful way .
As the directors of the drama, Kaixin Wang and Yujia Li put great efforts into the theme of the drama, the script, the design of the stage. The move of every actor on the stage, every line and script, and even the position and angle of every chair were carefully thought about. In writing the script, they skillfully put into use their knowledge of theater art and English language. The result was amazing as audience enjoyed watching our show. "We were crazy at the time, and we really planned to analyze the characteristics of each character. I can hardly stop myself from thinking of the details. Maybe this is our ‘obsessive-compulsive disorder’." said Kaixin Wang.
"We remembered clearly that in order to write the script, we collected information from various media from the end of 2019 until the day before the show and studied, analyzed carefully and summarized the views and individual language styles." said Yujia Li. This performance, which did not compromise on any details, was a huge success – the audience burst into laugh from time to time during the show.
Peace and Conflict research team (author, 2nd from the right, teacher Luis, 1st from the right )
As the student instructor of the COVID-19 research project and a member of "Peace and Conflict" research group, Zhijun He was responsible for facilitating the discussion among group members. The spontaneous enthusiasm of the team members ignited the whole classroom every time they joined the discussion. "My peers demonstrated strong communication skill and they are very good at putting ideas into actions. Their enthusiasm, courage and desire to act always inspire me to work harder. It is really a pleasure and joy to be with these interesting souls." said Zhijun.
Although we are still young, our ideas and thoughts are not sophiscated enough to solve the many challenging global issues, we are keen to equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills needed to contribute our bit for the future of the mankind.
The world is far from peace and not yet united as one to fight against the pandemic, we hope our idealism can be the glimmer of light in the darkness and we ourselves can become a force for peace and sustainability.