Picture 1 Project implementation status of Fuxin Primary School of Rongchen City, Shandong Province
Picture 2 “Life of Magic Beans” five-star map designed by Wenzhou Dalton Elementary School
Picture 3 Project implementation status of Qianshan Road Primary School, Weihai City, Shandong Province
To improve the quality of SSI-L project design in all schools and increase the effectiveness of SSI-L activity curriculum implementation, an online discussion was held among the elementary-school stage schools of the Beijing Normal University SSI-L project team via Tencent meeting on December 16, 2020. Cao Chunhao, head of the elementary-school stage project team and a special-grade senior teacher from the Beijing Tongzhou District Teacher Training Center Primary School, Shang Xiufen, a teacher from the Shanxi Academy of Educational Sciences, and other disciplinary experts attended the discussion. Over 40 teachers from 14 partner schools participated into this meeting.
Wang Yingshui, a teacher from Fuxin Primary School of Rongchen City, Shandong Province gave the first presentation, introducing the project design and implementation status of the school’s “Landscape tree” program. Ji Liwei from Qingfengshan Town School in Liaoning Province raised questions around how to guide and organize students to conduct field investigation and interviews in this project, what kinds of teaching method are adopted in class, are there any locations involved other than Marina Plaza? Then Wang Yingshui answered these questions with examples. The first activity investigates the selection of landscape trees. Students are guided to learn investigation methods, then go to the plaza to conduct field investigations when all conditions permit. They can learn about the tree species by checking the tag on each tree and scanning the code with mobile phones. In group activities, different teachers of the SSI-L project team guide activities of different groups. Then in class, teachers with different strengths are responsible for teaching different content. The municipal government has invested heavily in Marina Plaza on plant selection and maintenance. It is also nearby the school. So with overall consideration of safety, transportation and other factors, only one location is selected. The focus of the project is for students to acquire research experience, not generalizable research results. He Yinghong from Harbin Jihong Primary School asked questions on whether natural science notes can incorporate content of art subjects, should the idea of “function” be changed to “environment” in the five-star map, is there any difference in students’ experience when comparing SSI issues and projectized issues, how different is the evaluation process, to what extent students will be more interested in controversial topics as the research goes further, is there any students’ proactivity that exceeds teachers’ anticipation? Wang Yingshui agreed with the first two suggestions and answered the other three questions. Students of different ages have different cognitive abilities and different research experiences. Therefore, it can encourage senior students to play a leading role if all of them are divided into groups with mixed ages based on their interests. Each group has a project learning manual, which includes students’ research records and research results. Teachers evaluate students based on these text materials, and other evaluations are also conducted based on students’ performance in class, including materializing students’ creativity, their sentiments, attitudes and values, teamwork, etc. In general, process assessment is adopted. Such evaluations put more emphasis on students’ research process. There is not much consideration of the changes in students’ interest during their research. According to the research results, everyone has a different value perspective to the results, which shows the controversiality of the issue. Shang Xiufen suggested that the project design should consider the connection between the directivity of investigation activities and top-level design.
Yuan Xiaoxiao from Jiancheng No.1 Primary School in Jianyang City, Sichuan Province, gave a presentation to introduce the school’s SSI-L project “Life of magic beans”, and raised a question for participants on whether students can accept it if some content on “genetically modified organism” is included. Miao Xuchun from Wenzhou Dalton Elementary School responded that it is difficult to develop genetically modified knowledge in primary schools and thus recommended not doing so. Then starting from the design idea, she combined core literacy standards and designed a five-star map for this school project. She also analyzed motivation questions of the school’s issue and significant characteristics of the issue, and offered some ideas for further exploration, such as designing a board game “Magic Bean Kingdom”, conducting nutritional testing of soybeans, comparing different positions in the diet pagoda between soybeans and other staple foods, analysing data of corn and soybeans on input-output ratio, import and export trade volume, population demand and land occupation, discussing soybean revitalization plan and domestic soybean brand image design, etc. Xie Kaixuan from Yuhe Primary School in Pingcheng District, Datong City, pointed out that the potential value of soybeans can be added into the economic dimension of the five-star map, such as maintaining soil fertility in crop rotation. He believed it is interesting to determine SSI issues through student surveys, but meanwhile hoped to strengthen teachers’ control of the overall process in formulating the topics. He suggested that it is a practice with great referential significance to combine soybeans, tempeh with Chinese culture. Shang Xiufen added another question, what the metaphor — magic beans means.
Wang Chuansheng, from Qianshan Road Primary School, Weihai City, Shandong Province, gave his presentation, introducing the school’s project design and implementation status, “whether the school’s pastoral base is to grow lavender or other crops”. Cai Xuejiao from Wenhui Primary School in Pingcheng District, Datong City, raised several questions: How to ensure the participation of each student in collective trading activities? How to carry out quantitative evaluation? There is a trading festival in the school’s traditions, “Five Pastoral Festivals”, where school tokens (experience tokens and participation tokens) are used. Students have always engaged in this activity with high degree of participation. In addition, students are allowed to set up stalls in nearby communities. They can sell products on the school’s WeChat official account online store. Multiple channels have been running to ensure the promotion and participation of collective trading activities. The SSI project does not want to impose too much pressure on students, so quantitative assessment and student rankings are not considered. But the school prepares for various research activities a systematic portfolio evaluation system called “Research Passport”, under which the evaluation of this topic is carried out. Zhao Qiaojie, from the 47th Primary School in Pingcheng District, Datong City, believed that the topic has a solid foundation, deeply integrates characteristics of the school and local environment. It is also highly operable. With the combination between production, education and research, the project can generate multiple benefits Shang Xiufen added that the project can include knowledge of plant growth and development.
Shang Xiufen suggested that when making project design, teachers should consider what unique features the SSI’s educational function has and what functions the SSI-L curriculum undertakes but other curriculum formats don’t. At the meantime, she proposed that it is not necessary to present the whole topic completely in the discussion, just to focus on unfolding in detail some of the experiences in implementation. Cao Chunhao reminded all teachers to pay attention to the sorting and collection of SSI research results. He summarized, after four rounds of discussions, the teachers from elementary-school stage schools have made significant progress in curriculum design, with better understanding of SSI. The operability of their project designs has become stronger. It is hoped that teacher from different schools will have more brainstorming in communication and exchange for future discussions, so that the topics can be more diverse and innovative.