On October 20, 2021, from 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm, SSI-L Junior Group held an online seminar in the Tencent Conference room. The new participation of four partner schools in the Haidian District further expanded the scope of the junior high school team. In today’s seminar, four schools shared their issue-based activity design and implementation. Subject experts and teachers from other partner schools commented on the issue selection and gave suggestions. The meeting was hosted by ZHANG Tao, the responsible person of the SSI-L junior high school group and the director of the Junior High School team of Weihai Institute of Education and Teaching Research. More than 40 attendances, including backbone teachers and subject experts, participated in the discussion.
YU Yang from Beijing 101 Middle High School, Kuangda campus shared their newly designed SSI-L project “Forming a healthy outlook on life”. Nowadays, teenagers’ health condition is greatly concerned both domestically and internationally. Because of that, the team decided to choose the topic of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Teacher YU pointed out that this project aimed to help students to build a healthy outlook on life and prevent disease. The outlook of residence, exercise and physical, and mental health are closely related to students’ daily life. The project not only paid attention to TCM-related theories but also the actual guidance those theories could provide.
YANG Kaitian from Ruian Affiliated School of Beijing Foreign Studies University believed that the idea fitted the social background, closed to students’ life and their cognition. Students could think and discuss through SSI learning. In terms of the form, there were some practical activities related to TCM in the course that students could participate in.
ZHANG Tao praised the school to raise such a mature topic at the beginning stage, while also pointing out that there was still room for improvement in terms of the design. For example, there was only a relatively small portion of discussion, which was more like knowledge explanation. In the future, the team needs to think about how to make the topic more controversial and let students discuss it.
JI Qingqing from Linfen Jiefang Road School, Shanxi shared their SSI-L project “The advantage and disadvantage of transgenic maize”. At present, students had already taken two classes. In the first class, they discussed the pros and cons of topics such as double reduction policy, artificial intelligence, and living in school or going back home from multiple aspects, thinking dialectically, and building the foundation for later study. In the second class, students learned the development history and culture of corn which helped them to understand the important role of corn in China and would benefit their future study.
WANG Weiyun from Weihai Nanhai Experimental School, Shandong pointed out that genetically modified food (GM) is a social hot issue that has been discussed for a long time and there was a series of topics of that. In terms of activity design, the topic activity designed by the team had the characteristics of “low starting point and small steps”. Students participated in the activity actively and had achieved great results.
ZHANG Tao said that the school had discussed GM-related issues for two years. This issue is controversial, has social value, and also requires students to think dialectically. It is a good issue. However, it is also a bit complicated that teachers need to carefully consider the difficulty and feasibility of teaching. Besides, the culture of the corn is not scientific, so it’s better to modify the element of “moral” in the five-star diagram to “ethics” to make it closer to the issue. Moreover, there were too many contents on the cultural side and was suggested to delete it. ZHANG praised the logical design of the issue and encouraged other schools to learn from it.
XUE Xiaofeng from Ruian Affiliated School of Beijing Foreign Studies University, Zhejiang province introduced their SSI-L project “Roof greening”. Based on the experts’ suggestions in the last discussion, the school revised the original issue and put forward the new one. That was because they found there were only a few green areas in large and medium-sized cities. Students were going to learn the economic, political, and scientific knowledge of the green roof. They would also build ecological models for roof greening. During the study, students would make multiple rounds of decisions based on knowledge and activities.
LIU Yan from Taiyuan Experimental School of Jiancaoping District, Shanxi pointed out that, this is a social hot issue, and both the design of the five-star diagram and activities were highly logical.
ZHANG Tao believed that the issue of green roof met the standard of social-scientific issues. Roof greening is an activity that does better than harm in general, and the government is also vigorously advocating it. However, there is a gap between the policy and real life. ZHANG pointed out that teachers needed to further think about the social aspect of the issue.
WU Xingchun from Hangzhou Sandun Middle School introduced their SSI-L project “Drinking water”. At the beginning of this semester, the team led students to complete the previous project of “Eutrophication of water” to better connect with the new project. At present, they have already recruited participators for the new project, asked students to do self-introductions and they also have introduced the evaluation method. To begin with, teachers collected students’ ideas towards water-related issues through sending out questionnaires and they then raised the driven question based on the result. At last, Teacher WU pointed out two problems faced during the implementation. One was the time limitation and the conflict between examinations. Another one was that they found water issues were not urgent enough, so they hoped to develop a short-term issue with urgency.
KONG Pengfei from Weihai Shichang Middle School, Shandong agreed that it was a good idea to bring forward the evaluation section. Teacher KONG also gave suggestions on two difficulties mentioned by WU. For the first one, KONG suggested a flexible way of teaching or breaking the long class into several short ones. For the second question, he said the issue regarding drinking water was very good and could enhance students’ interests through better module setting.
PENG Menghua, a subject expert and a special-grade teacher of No. 2 High School affiliated to Beijing Normal University, summarized today’s session. He pointed out that no matter what kind of subject it is, as long as it is close to student’ life and can be successfully completed, it is a good issue. PENG also made specific comments on each project. Project of “Forming a healthy outlook on life” from Beijing 101 Middle High School, Kuangda campus was close to our daily life and serious. However, this issue requires students to have some knowledge of history and literature, so teachers need to invite students with a certain knowledge base of TCM. As for the project “The advantage and disadvantage of transgenic maize” from Linfen Jiefang Road School, PENG suggested the team make a clear definition of GM so that students could distinguish under what kind of cultivating method is a GM product. In terms of the project of “Roof greening” from Ruian Affiliated School of Beijing Foreign Studies University, he suggested teachers consider the local policy. The school should focus on whether it is allowed to build roof gardens under the current policy. Last was about the project of “Drinking water” from Hangzhou Sandun Middle School. PENG pointed out that the issue is very close to students’ lives and has a lot of questions. Teachers need to help students to establish a correct view of using water and drinking water.
Dr. LIN Jing, the SSI-L project leader and Director of the Science Improvement Department of China Collaborative Innovation Center of Assessment for Basic Education Quality summed up the seminar. First, she gave some suggestions. For the project “Roof greening”, she mentioned that under current policy, roof greening may be far away from ordinary people life and so as students. They may find it a bit hard to raise opinions. Besides, the team needs to consider how controversial the issue is, otherwise, teachers need to pave the way. As for the issue of “Drinking water”, it is very meaningful. In the future, teachers can add more sections into the project such as “how people treat drinking water in water shortage areas” and “is it healthy to replace water with drinks”. LIN suggested that seize the moment of the establishment of the Zhejiang Regional Alliance for the SSI-L project, issues about “water” could be promoted in the region. Moreover, LIN again emphasized that the orientation of seminars like today was to prepare lessons together. LIN hoped that teachers could raise their doubts and criticisms actively, make useful suggestions and avoid eulogizing comments. At last, LIN pointed out that the issues of SSI-L projects must be highly relevant to the local situation and needed to combine with it. Those issues should be close to student’s life instead of just drawing one. For those big issues, teachers could start from small topics which are close to students.
In today’s seminar, all the schools shared their project designs and current situations logically and specifically. They also raised several questions and received useful suggestions from experts and teachers from other schools. All in all, the discussion was fruitful and played a key role in the smooth development of social science teaching in the second half of the semester and future design polish.