When Reina’s school informed us of a field trip where both parents were encouraged to also attend, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A few parents had explained what the field trip was about, but I was certain something was getting lost in translation. “It’s like a town for kids where the children can pretend to do over 50 jobs.” I had visions of Lord of the Flies, but had seen pictures of a friend’s child dressed as a surgeon, so explanation had some merit. However, when I asked who played the patient, all I got was nervous laughter.
Then I visited EE City and my head is still coping with the scale of the place. EE City (蓝天城) is a sprawling 18,600 square meter mini community on the 10th floor of the Joy City Mall on Chaoyang North Road (they spent a purported 150 million RMB building the place). There is a bank, theater, TV studio, fire department, police department, hospital, travel agent, hotel, restaurants, raceway, airplane, submarine, art rooms, and on and on and on. It is a place where children get to dress up in the appropriate uniform and gain some hands-on-learning regarding the careers of their choice (84 in total). EE City calls it a “carefully crafted career experience education center.” I’d simply call it the ultimate pretend experience.
In the four hours we were there (there are two 4.5-hour sessions a day), Reina worked at the hotel, rode on a fire truck and doused a blazing high-rise, and even put in a shift at Beijing United Hospital as a nurse caring for newborns. Each career session lasted 30 minutes and the children were led through the role-playing by adult supervisors/educators. Reina loved all three experiences, “I liked taking care of the baby best, but I really liked working in the hotel too because I got to see how the hotel staff take care of me when I stay at a hotel.”
EE City is huge. I made an effort to try and walk through the whole complex and I’m not certain I actually saw all of it. To help maximize your child’s experience, I do have a few tips.
· Arrive early so you don’t lose any time.
· Try to plan in advance what careers are important to your child (easier once you have been, but they have all the familiar jobs). Due to scheduling and lines, children will most likely only get to do 3 or 4 role-plays per visit.
· Pack a lunch or snacks. This will help you avoid food lines. Don’t forget drinks. I only found one “café” that had caffeinated beverages, but I never saw them make a coffee.
· Take something for your child to do while waiting in line: hand held games, books, etc.
· Bring a camera!
· Be patient. Tempers can get heated and I did see some parents get into verbal fights.