From 19:00 to 21:30pm, January 5, 2022, the SSI-L project high school group held an online seminar via Tencent Rooms to discuss each school’s selection of SSI issues and curriculum implementation progress. The meeting was presided over by Mr. Tan Yongping, the head of the high school group and the director of the Biology Office of the People’s Education Press, and attended by subject guidance experts, contact persons and key teacher members from partner schools.
Chen Zhou from Jiufang Middle School in Zhuzhou City, Hunan Province introduced the school’s SSI-L activity design for the 10th-grade students, which integrates geography, politics, chemistry, physics, and other disciplines. The project has planned 8 activities, of which the one on smart railway —“Drawing down railway on the ground and the road of wisdom”— was introduced in detail. The activity was designed with four questions: 1) Considering the railway width, what improvements should the technicians make to prevent scratches, and what are the design principles? 2) The train does not need to lay steel rails, but only runs along the white traffic line. What is the material of the white traffic line? 3) How do large trains make U-turns? 4) Is the positioning technology used by smart railway the same as the combination of “satellite positioning + beacons”? Project activities include experiential activities and group debates. Tan Yongping affirmed that this topic has regional characteristics and multi-disciplinary comprehensiveness. It also reflects openness. He raised two questions: How to provide the knowledge that students lack when necessary? How to enhance the scientific features and add more hands-on parts? Chen Zhou responded that with the increase of the level of difficulty in the future, he will add electromagnetism related knowledge, and the hands-on practice will mainly focus on the selection of energy and body materials.
Fang Hongjuan from the Experimental School Affiliated to the Haidian District Teacher Training School in Beijing introduced the school’s biodiversity issue. The top-level-design star map includes five learning objectives: science, ethics, culture, economy, and politics. The integration of disciplines involves biology, geography, chemistry, physics, and others. At present, five motivating questions have been identified according to the characteristics of different disciplines, such as human activities, climate change and biological survival – the impact of climate change on the survival of species; the plastic age – with plastic as the topic, how to turn garbage into resources. This issue is intended to encourage high school students to acquire more international frontier knowledge in the process of learning activities, cultivate interdisciplinary comprehensive ability, improve scientific thinking, and build up a sense of social responsibility. In the end, the learning effect will be evaluated by poster design, research papers, and small artworks. Gao Xiaoxu from Beijing No. 9 Middle School affirmed that this issue selection is a hot social topic, with interdisciplinary characteristics. At the same time, there are general questions and sub-questions, and it is well-structured and targeted. Gao also suggested that this topic should incorporate political subjects. Tan Yongping added another question. For this relatively broad topic, how to reflect the school’s features and make students feel that this topic is related to them? Fang Hongjuan answered that the project will be jointly designed by teachers of various disciplines in the school to increase the interdisciplinary knowledge connection and feasibility.
Qi Xuedan from the Middle School Affiliated to Beijing Jiaotong University introduced the school’s project on biodiversity conservation — taking Nanhaizi Elk Garden as an example. The presentation was done from four aspects: project planning, project progress, problems and solutions existing in the project, and other project-derived issues. The star map design dimensions include science, ethics, culture, economy, and politics, with the integration of disciplinary learning of biology, geography, chemistry, history, and others. Working in groups, students will eventually present their results in the form of reports based on literature research and survey. At present, this project organizes students’ learning within optional courses. In the future, it will be developed as part of interdisciplinary comprehensive practice courses. It has come across two problems in the implementation process: 1) students do not have in-depth understanding of the ecological environment; 2) seasonal factors have impact on the diversity of species, which makes it difficult to carry out the research. Therefore, to solve the two problems, the project team decided that teachers should prepare enough background knowledge for students and guide them to select suitable research issues, as well as to conduct multiple field trips. During the learning process, the students came up with six research questions, such as investigating the ecological restoration of Elk Garden and its operation model. Li Chang from the No. 1 Middle School in Changping District, Beijing affirmed that this topic is interdisciplinary and has outstanding regional characteristics. Tan Yongping asked, what is the uniqueness of this biodiversity learning design with SSI-L?
Yang Hua from Zhichun Branch of Beijing Zhongguancun Middle School introduced the school’s three issues: 1) exploring the use of sponge city concept to design and transform the campus environment; 2) zero distance between me and Chinese herbal medicine; 3) light pollution. Regarding the first issue, there are two motivating questions, namely how to use the concept of sponge city to design and transform the campus environment, and how to enhance the role of rain gardens. In the activities, students designed and renovated the rain garden on campus based on their knowledge of biology and mathematics, and conducted field trips to the Olympic Forest Park to collect water samples for measurement and analysis. For the second issue, from the initial students recruitment to the follow-up experiment, the project team designed six activities, such as agricultural experience activities in the Beijing Agricultural College, medicinal plants tissue culture experiment, extraction of aromatic plant hydrosol and soilless cultivation techniques. In these two SSI learning, students will present their results in the form of papers. The third issue — light pollution, was put forward by students. It is still in the initial stage. Students will conduct experimental research and finally write their research results into a thesis. The school will also invite professional tutors to guide them through the research process. Liu Hongwei from Beijing No. 57 Middle School pointed out that sponge city is an activity recommended in the 10th-grade geography textbook, which meets the school-based requirements. The second issue has much practical value and meaning because students lack knowledge about Chinese medicine extraction and traditional medicine is a part of Chinese culture. Liu suggested the third issue should consider the impact of light pollution on species.
Wang Yangweizi from Beijing No. 9 Middle School introduced the school’s sub-issue — “Making and measurement of Sodium Hypochlorite Disinfectant” under its major project “Whether prevention and protection should be normalized in the pandemic era”. There are two motivating questions: how should we respond to sudden epidemic outbreaks; how should students learn about epidemic prevention in disciplinary teaching? The activity is aimed at the 10th-grade students, integrating five disciplines of biology, politics, history, chemistry, and physics. The team designed a total of 12 questions for the chemistry section to be implemented step by step, such as what disinfectants can effectively kill the coronavirus, what are the main components of 84 disinfectant, how to make sodium hypochlorite? Learning evaluation is based on students’ in-class performance, activity participation, written responses in activities and work completion. At present, the first module — “construction of cognitive model of electrolysis principle”” has been completed, and the second module — “the application model design” is under way. Next semester, the third module — concentration measurement of sodium hypochlorite disinfectant will be discussed. Yu Ge from Beijing Haidian Experimental Middle School raised three questions: what is the difference between SSI issues and general issues? how to realize interdisciplinary integrated learning? how to distinguish disciplinary issues from social issues? Tan Yongping believed that this issue design lacks social characteristics and interdisciplinary integration, and thus suggested that the question design can be modified to how to make disinfectant in daily life.
Wen Mingnan from the Middle School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, put forward his ideas based on the sharing from the five schools and the problems encountered in his own practice. He believed that the social nature of SSI has played a positive role in students’ practical learning process, but students generally lack understanding of the social significance of SSI issue.
Peng Menghua, the project’s subject guidance expert, a master-class teacher in physics, and a teacher from the Second Affiliated Middle School of Beijing Normal University, affirmed that the issue of Zhuzhou Jiufang Middle School is conducive to students’ participation, has regional characteristics, and encourages students to design trams by themselves and conduct experiments on campus. The issue of biodiversity is too broad, beyond students’ limited capability to study thoroughly. So it is suggested the school should narrow down the focus on small issues. For the project on conservation of biodiversity – taking Nanhaizi Elk Garden as an example, there are difficulties in practical operation. For instance, the school is too far away from the field site, and the Elk Garden is currently closed to public. Peng suggested that schools in Haidian District could study whether the newly built cycling path from Huilongguan to Zhongguancun is meaningful and consider the actual utilization effectiveness. The issue of sponge city can start from the utilization of rainwater on campus, and the issue of Chinese herbal medicine can study its medicinal properties. The issue of Beijing No. 9 Middle School only involves one single discipline, not interdisciplinary.
Lin Jing, head of the SSI-L project and director of the Science Promotion Department of the Collaborative Innovation Center of Assessment for Basic Education Quality, summarized tonight’s seminar. Lin pointed out that SSI-L project in high school cannot alienate the implementation goals, and offered three suggestions. 1) In the design of SSI activities, it is necessary to clarify that SSI learning is not thematic or problem-based learning. SSI Issues are controversial and open-ended issues that require students to dispute through scientific reasoning and argumentation, moral reasoning, etc. When converting some big concepts and major themes into SSI issues, schools should consider real events that lead to social problems, as well as students’ cognitive base, to make the issue operable. 2) In the implementation of SSI activities, the focus should be shifted from the expansion of scientific knowledge to the development of scientific thinking and practical activities. It should be avoided using SSI issues as the content for teachers’ teaching. It is expected that all teachers can step out of their comfort zone, understand the meaning of SSI-L project, and create SSI-L context for students to actively cooperate and explore. 3) More attention should be paid to the top-level design of interdisciplinary integrated learning. It is not advisable for students to come up with SSI issues. Teachers should lead the direction and integrate multidisciplinary learning to create SSI issue inquiry contexts. It is suggested that the team members of the high school group use the winter holiday to study the academic annual conferences and public lectures that have been published on the AISL website, so as to further understand the SSI-L goals and design strategies, and better implement the SSI-L project to facilitate the education requirements of the core literacy of the national high school curriculum standards.