Learning is all about breaking down barriers at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing)— literally. The Honglingjin Park adjacent campus boasts innovative learning spaces in its Early Childhood Education Center for its K2, K3 and K4 students, where pane glass sliding barriers between classes are designed to be collapsed and pushed aside, so that the entire space can open up and allow all 90 children to hop up and interact with peers of different ages.
“You want them to break the wall,” says Co-principal Christine Xu of the figurative barriers that are also surmounted in such an open environment, adding: “Whether it’s a critical issue around politics, or a strong background in economics, if you prepare them at a young age to be accustomed to openness, challenges, and critical discussion, then they will thrive. But if students are stifled and stuck in the classroom all the time, then you can’t expect them to be a wall breaker.”
Below, we hear more from YCIS staff members who are best versed in the benefits of these learning spaces (you can also learn more about these educators, and YCIS’ other fine features, at the school’s upcoming Open Day on October 19).
Noel Thomas, Co-principal
As the year gets going there are times, especially in the morning, when children in ECE all gather together in “The common”, the central area all classrooms are connected to. Some educators think you can’t put multiage groups of kids in the same place at once— that the older and younger kids won’t relate. But, in my experience, that’s not true. That is just ignoring the potential those children have.
Too often, adults underestimate the capacity of young people. When you give them more credit and challenges, you’ll see that kids rise to the bar you set. And that’s something I’ve seen happen time and again in the learning space of our Early Childhood Education Center.
You see that capacity when you go down to our ECE. You see they can interact with different age groups, that they need to develop social skills more quickly than we think.
Tilly Asafu-Adjaye, K4 Co-teacher
When we open up this space it allows children of all different ages to come together. So you have the two year olds with the five year olds, and [they are able]to learn different things from each other.
It’s lovely to see siblings play together in the ECE, outside of the home environment where they might not like each other quite as much (laughs).
It’s a good leadership opportunity for the older kids. And the younger ones get to be brought out of their shells by older kids.
It’s also a new experience for a lot of parents. Some kids get very homesick or are shy to leave their parents in a conventional setting. But here they’re standing up doing engaging activities in a big space. So when they’re dropped off they say “Bye Mom!” and off they go. It really helps to build their confidence.
We use the British curriculum, which has seven areas of development. So when we open up the walls and the students move about from teacher to teacher, each teacher has a different [activity]to focus on. One day I might be focusing on maths, while another is focusing on literacy. We use our personal ideas in that domain, then swap, so every few weeks we teachers learn different ideas from each other.
Christine Xu, Co-principal
It’s not just a classroom, but a learning community. If you have a flexible learning space like this, it enables students to have a more vibrant learning community.
It’s an amazing moment when you open the glass walls, and you see them all coming together and working together. If you want your child to be a team player, such settings make them more collaborative in their day-to-day learning.
If students are stifled and stuck in the classroom all the time, then you can’t expect them to be a wall breaker. It’s so contradictory to the real world. But a learning space like our Early Childhood Education Center makes educators think outside of the classroom, and ask, “What’s the outcome to help my students truly become a global citizen?”
Learn more about YCIS Beijing’s upcoming Open Day on October 19!
This post is sponsored by YCIS.