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Teaching Language & Culture through Field Trips

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

When a Terracotta Warriors exhibit came to Philadelphia, PA Chinese TCLP teachers across the northeastern United States saw the perfect opportunity to plan field trips for their Mandarin students. The Terracotta Warriors on display were some of the thousands of life-sized terracotta statues, found in the 1970s by a Chinese farmer, that were buried over 2,000 years ago to guard the tomb of China’s first emperor. The exhibit provided an impressive and exciting way to experience the history and culture of China brought to the United States.

One such field trip was planned and implemented by TCLP mentor teacher Debby Page and Chinese teacher Li Chunping for Mandarin Chinese students, Chinese Enrichment Club members, and other students at Captain Nathan Hale Middle School in Coventry, CT. Using Google Earth, the students “flew” from Coventry, CT to Xi’an, China to explore the Terracotta Warrior pits where the archaeological treasures are being continuously excavated. Students evaluated and analyzed information found in print and multimedia resources, participated in a docent led tour of Chinese art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and visited Chinatown to partake in an authentic Chinese meal. After the trip, the students developed a presentation, a travel brochure, informational videos, and created life-sized papier-mâché Terracotta Warriors. They shared these creations at a school assembly, a PTO meeting, and a televised Board of Education meeting to highlight the Chinese program.

Another field trip was organized by TCLP mentor teacher Ivy Yiu and Chinese teacher Zhang Wenjie for students enrolled in Chinese 1 classes at North Warren Regional High School in Blairstown, NJ. The students visited the exhibit and then researched the history of the era to develop a presentation to share with the school community. The information was shared with other students at North Warren during lunch in several different student-led “centers” or stations including: learning important Chinese phrases, picking out a Chinese name, calligraphy brush writing, Chinese character recognition, and visiting the Philadelphia exhibit with technology through the use of augmented reality.

A third field trip was organized by Chinese TCLP teacher Zhu Xiaohong in collaboration with the Philadelphia World Affairs Council for 45 Mandarin students at Bodine High School for International Affairs in Philadelphia, PA. In preparation for the field trip, the students learned new vocabulary and content relating to Chinese art, food, and festivals. During the trip, the students participated in an hour long lesson about the pieces of art in the Chinese collection. Then, they went to a Chinese restaurant to practice their Chinese table manners and the words they had learned including please, thank you, and the food that they ordered. Xiaohong used the opportunity to reinforce new vocabulary, phrases, and cultural information relevant to their visit.

All three field trips were carried out in part with TCLP Critical Language Project awards funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.