Eric Halvorson’s Blog

IPS in China: Journey Nears an End

June 24th, 2013 at 3:47 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

We’ve had the good fortune of using this space to hear from an IPS team in China.  Chris Collier, head of Center for Inquiry Schools, Ann Mennonno, the new IPS Teacher of the Year, and colleague Amy Wackerly, also a teacher, are concluding their trip.  They visited Beijing and Chengdu.  Teaching and learning.  Here is the latest post from Amy Wackerly.

china callig classWe have participated in the Chengdu conference for the past two days.  Ann and I both taught our science lessons and we all presented sessions in the lecture hall. 

One thing Ann and I both noticed was that the students’ English was not as strong as the students’ English in Beijing.  So we kept translators with us. 

The students were highly engaged in both lessons.  I think the participants felt overall that we move at a slower pace than they do here.  Their classes are all departmentalized (one teacher for each subject), thus their lessons being are only 35 or 40 minutes each and very teacher-directed. 

Another difference they brought up is class size.  In China there are often 38-50 students in a classroom, so having students sit at tables and work in cooperative groups does not occur in the schools we observed.  The teachers also felt like we take the time to get to know our students more.  Our educational process is more of a collaborative effort between the students and teachers vs. the teacher telling the students what they must learn. 

Scene from The Hot Pot Restaurant, Chengdu

Scene from The Hot Pot Restaurant, Chengdu

Saturday evening after the conference we had dinner at THE hot pot restaurant in Chengdu. We were guests of President (principal) Yu and some of the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the other campuses.  It was a dining experience to be remembered.  It is most like The Melting Pot experience when it came to cooking the meat (unfortunately there was no cheese or chocolate fondue!). 

There were two cooking pots.  One was very spicy and the other one was mild.  All kinds of meat and vegetables were put into the pots.  We had the basics like chicken, beef and pork.  We also had different organs (I don’t know from which animals) like kidneys, intestines, liver and heart and tongue. We also had squid and sheep.  As with many of our meals there was lots of toasting and appreciating our hosts and visa versa.

Sunday was the last day of our work here in China. We started by watching a third grade math class from their master teacher.  The teacher told the students to focus on the lesson with all of their eyes, ears and hearts.  The students were working to establish the relationship between the sides of a triangle.  We were asked to notice similarities and differences between this lesson and the lessons we had modeled. 

Some of the similarities we noticed were: establishing classroom expectations, the teacher using a document camera, students working in a group and students demonstrating the answer to a question for the whole class and using real world examples.  Some differences we noticed were that most of the dialogue was student to teacher and not student to student. 

We also saw that there were very little hands-on activities that the students did.  They constructed one paper triangle at the table with a group of 6, but not all students had the opportunity to do the hands-on part.  When students responded to the teacher, of the 10+ responses only one of them was from a girl. 

Chris and Professor Ling (from Wisconsin) were then asked to speak to the lesson. Ann and Chris both gave a 2nd presentation about our school.

Scene from signing of partnership agreement

Scene from signing of partnership agreement

Next, Chris and President Yu signed a partnership agreement to continue working together and learning from each other. 

The conference closed with comments by Lin Yang, Director of Chengdu’s Basic Education Research Institute.  She summarized her noticings of the last two days.  Ultimately she felt both countries had strengths in their educational systems and we should learn from each other.  Some differences she noted were:

1) There is less time for social work and getting to know students in Chinese classrooms.

2) In China there are some extra curricular activities, but the main focus is to study.

3) In America children have a lot of time to play.  In China they study much of the time.

4) In America the students learn for themselves, while in China, the students are learning for their parents and teachers.

5) In America, there is more knowledge of effective teaching methods. China’s teachers are content specialists.

When we head back to the US we have a lot of reflecting to do about our experiences!

After our conference we were able to go to the Jinsha Site Museum.  This is an archeological site that was accidentally discovered in 2001. The many, jade, bronze and other artifacts date back over 3,000 years!  I really love the symbol that is called Sun Bird.  They discovered it in this dig and that they now use as a symbol for Chengdu culture. Tomorrow is our last day in China and we will be seeing the Dujiangyan Irrigation System.





IPS in China: Chengdu Two

June 23rd, 2013 at 5:44 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

China the teamThe IPS team in China has been very busy.  But, Chris Collier says she, Amy Wackerly and Ann Mennonno love what they’re doing.  Here is the China Blog for June 21, 2013

From Chris:

We were immediately impressed with Chengdu when we arrived on June 19th and have quickly fallen in love with the city. A quick comparison would be Beijing to New York and Chengdu to Indianapolis…less traffic, lots of beautiful gardens and greenery, and a relaxed pace of life.

After getting settled at our university hotel, we attended a 6th grade graduation ceremony on the West campus of Chengdu. We will be working and teaching at the main campus of the Experimental Primary School Affiliated with Sichuan University (EPASU).  There is also an East campus. Each campus has over a thousand students in grades 1-6.

We were quite inspired by the beauty of the 6th grade ceremony honoring China Graduateand celebrating the two hundred students. The ceremony was outdoors in the courtyard, full camera crews were present, the students wore graduation gowns and caps, and their parents walked them up the aisle to receive their certificate. Later all staff walked the carpeted aisle including the school cooks.

The ceremony, truly about celebrating all that the students had learned and their continued journey, included tributes by teachers, students, and parents. One parent comment expressed excitement toward the next step and the preparedness of their child. Another parent said the school was like another mother in their care for the child. The 6th graders’ wishes, written when they entered grade 1, were displayed on boards.

From Amy:

On June 21st, we began our work at the main campus of EPASU, preparing the classroom and meeting the students.  We had sent photos and given a visual tour of Ann’s classroom to the schools as were preparing for the visit. We were very excited to see their creation of our classroom.  Tables had been provided for student seating in collaborative groups. A group meeting place was readied library books, carpets and comfortable seating.  The walls were covered with student work, learning charts (in this case English words for things like the weather, family member names and foods).  They also had a display in the room chronicling how the room was put together.  This included before shots of the room, pictures of them video chatting with us, students putting together the student-made posters for the walls and teachers helping move tables and furniture around the room.  Once again, NASCO had supplied the room with the science materials needed for our demonstration lessons.

Then came the time to meet the students.  Like the students in Beijing, both the third grade and fifth grade students were very excited to meet us.  We answered any questions they had and then talked about the lessons we would be doing with them the next day.  Their prior knowledge and English were probably not as strong as the first group of students we had, so we are working on additional ways to help the students as we begin the lessons.

After meeting the students we enjoyed lunch on campus and then headed to the ancient city of Ludai.  This city, over 400 years old, is on the eastern side of Chengdu and was our shopping stop before we visited the East campus of the elementary school.  This city had small shops that lined the stone, brick and rock streets.  It also had two small (maybe 18 inches wide x 1 foot deep) waterways that went down both sides of the street.  You had to step over the waterway or wait for a small bridge if you wanted to go into the shops. 

Some of our favorite beautiful sites have been on the school campuses.  We have loved all of the small ponds, beautiful gardens and water features we have seen.  This campus was no exception.  We also were able to participate in two different classes in what they call their function rooms.  The first class was a traditional calligraphy class. 

Ann Mennonno and Chris Collier with students

Ann Mennonno and Chris Collier with students

The students taught us, step-by-step, how to hold the brushes and write Chinese characters.  My teacher was very strict!

We wrote the characters on large pieces of paper we first had to divide into sections.  As we wrote the characters we dipped our brushes into ink that was on our tables.  The students gave us each a gift they had written on special red paper.  It had two characters on it and it stood for “happiness into your home”.  

We then went into the next function room were they did paper rolling.  They rolled slender strips of paper and glued them either onto paper or to each other to make different objects like flowers in pots or pandas for example. Our friend, Nick, who is traveling with us from the U.S and working with the conference, experienced the paper cutting.

After a dinner we all walked down the street to learn how to play MahJong at a teahouse.  The assistant principal (known here as “vice president”) traveling with us was very excited about us wanting to learn how to play this game.  It is a favorite game here and we noticed many people playing it in the different areas we’ve traveled.  We learned the basics of the game, although I am still confused about how you deal the playing pieces.  What we thought was really amazing was that there was an actual MahJong table that we played on that would automatically mix up the playing tiles (similar to dominoes except with circle and rod designs) underneath the table and then bring them up from below all stacked and ready to go.

In our next blog we look forward to sharing our teaching and conference experience in Chengdu.


Maybe Stardom Awaits

June 21st, 2013 at 8:08 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog, Uncategorized

faceIf you watch any TV, chances are you’ve seen a TV host or a sports reporter – or a news anchor — and said: “Hey, I could do that.” 

You just need the chance, right?  Maybe your opportunity is coming. 

Consider a casting call to be the next Face of MyINDY-TV.

Lisa Lee’s term as “the Face” is coming to an end.  And, that made me wonder about her predecessors.  Where are the first Faces?

Scott now works in New York City.

Zuri has a show in Dallas.

Danielle is freelancing in entertainment news.  You may even see her in the new Anchorman sequel.

Each spent a year as the Face of MyINDY-TV.  They interviewed celebrities who visited Indianapolis.  They hosted events and made public appearances on behalf of the station.

If that appeals to you, plan to participate in the open casting calls:

Wednesday, June 26

3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

Dreyer and Reinbold Mini

Located at 96th & Keystone

9333 Haver Way, Indianapolis 46240

Tuesday, July 9

5:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Monon Community Center West

1195 Central Park Drive West

Carmel, IN

Does this sound like a commercial?  Maybe it is. 

Maybe I’ve seen enough commercials that I said: Hey, I can do that!

IPS in China: Chengdu

June 21st, 2013 at 3:19 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

The IPS team in China is now in Chengdu, southwest of Beijing.  Chris Collier, head of the CFI Schools, has three words to describe the city:  “We love Chengdu!”  She and teacher Amy Wackerly will write about the work side of their journey.   Today, Ann Mennonno — the new IPS Teacher of the Year – writes about another experience she will never forget.

June 20, 2013 

China panda soloWe all have those top days in our lives that we cherish and want to hold onto forever. Today was one of those days for me. There was one thing Chris, Amy, and I were looking forward to the most during our visit in China and that was seeing the pandas in Chengdu. Today we met many pandas! There were several times that I had tears in my eyes because of the majestic nature of these creatures. I wished my students from CFI and my children could have been there to experience it with me. Amy and I were able FaceTime with our children so they could see the pandas with us – it wasn’t like being there but as good as we could get. Modern technology is wonderful sometimes.

The place we visited was called the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. This panda research facility is located in the northern suburb of Chengdu.  It is a world renowned ecological conservation base that occupies an area of 100 hectares (over 247 acres.) Besides seeing the pandas we listened to the amazing calls of the peacocks and visited the red pandas. One red panda entered the walkway we were on and was just a couple feet from us. We all stood very still and quiet as it passed. What a beautiful animal it is! The joy this visit brought us today will stay with us forever. You can see more photos of the place we visited at .

Today we were introduced to Sichuan food. Very tasty! Being a vegetarian, I have enjoyed the wide range of vegetables offered including bamboo shoots, sweet potatoes, and the leaves of the sweet potato plant.  Amy and Chris have enjoyed the chicken, beef, pork, and rabbit offered cooked with the many different sauces and vegetables. The food presentations are incredible. We like to photograph each meal because of the beauty of the presentation.

After a small rest in the afternoon (I’m really getting used to these rest times built in for us) we headed to an area in Chengdu called Jingli – folk custom street.

Scene from Jingli

Scene from Jingli

This is the oldest street area in Chengdu. Ancient wood, brick, and stone buildings house novelty shops, restaurants, and grab and go food vendors. We did it all :)   I found several children’s books in Mandarin Chinese that I purchased to put in my classroom library – I know my students will love them! We had a wonderful treat while we were shopping. It was sticky rice mixed with pineapple and papaya served in the shell of a pineapple – so good!  As the night came upon us the street lit up with lanterns and festive lights – very awe inspiring.

Our experiences today in Chengdu were incredible. We all fell quickly in love with this Chinese city.

Tomorrow we begin working in our partner school – Experimental Primary School of Sichuan University. We can’t wait to see our students again, this time in person!

IPS in China — Observations

June 20th, 2013 at 3:30 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog
Many of the telephone poles in the city have a massive amount of cable wire “jumbled up” in a big batch.

Many of the telephone poles in the city have a massive amount of cable wire “jumbled up” in a big batch.

The next blog posts from the IPS team in China will come from a place called Chengdu.  Amy Wackerly and Chris Collier provided these final thoughts about Beijing.

We reflected on the sights of Beijing and some things we noticed that took us by surprise. We share them here in no particular order.

China umbrellasUmbrellas – Most of the women and even some men, carry parasols when in the sun. Our teacher guide, Frank, told us it is not that their skin is too sun sensitive but that they don’t want the sun on their head for health reasons.

Healthy lifestyle – We observed less than 2% of people with issues of being overweight. For the most part, everyone is in shape. We attribute this to the healthy eating (no processed foods and many vegetables), lots of walking and biking, and few elevators! Walking and biking are modes of transportation not an after work exercise routine.

As Ann shared in her blog, the park is filled with people of all ages exercising through meditative martial arts and ribbon dancing, However we were dismayed by the number of smokers and that smoking is allowed in almost all public places. Ashtrays would be at each place setting in restaurants and in our hotel rooms. One of our teacher guides told us that smoking is more prevalent in people over the age of 30. The younger people have now been educated about the dangers of smoking.

Language acquisition – Most people over the age of 35-40 speak little to no English, as it was not taught in school when they were growing up. The younger people can converse enough to hold conversation, especially if Americans avoid slang and explain some terms, as there are things we say that don’t have an equivalent Mandarin word.

Telephone booths still exist even though many people don’t use them. They can be found on most every block.

Telephone booths still exist even though many people don’t use them. They can be found on most every block.

Sports – Ping-Pong is a national sport and we saw some matches on TV. The other favorite sports are badminton, basketball, swimming and soccer. The school in Beijing had an area the size of a football field filled with basketball hoops. The elementary students take swim lessons.

Masks – Although we have seen some people wearing surgical masks, it was much less prevalent than anticipated.

Fires – There are no fire hydrants. The water is carried on the fire trucks. In ancient China, at the Forbidden City, there were large black cauldrons filled with water. The buildings were all wood so when a fire broke out, the workers would all run out and throw water from the pots onto the building.

Housing – In the city, there are no single homes or “flat” homes. Everyone lives in apartment buildings that range from 3-story to a high-rise.  Some people buy their apartment and it is then called a condo. Housing can be very expensive…1 square meter would cost $10,000.

Greenery – There is very little greenery. We only saw grass near the Forbidden City and the park next to the hotel. However there are trees along the walkways.

In front of the hotel and at Tiananmen Square there were beautiful annual flowers but they were not planted in dirt, instead grouped tightly together, each in their own plastic pot.

Transportation – the large number of cars surprised us, especially since there is a bus and subway system. Deliveries, be it furniture or cases of beverages, were on carts attached to scooters and we were amazed at the heavy loads pulled behind the scooters and bicycles. Cars often pulled up and parked on the sidewalk. 

We also found it difficult to hail a taxi even though they were abundant.

China traffic 2Safety – As safety driven as we are, it was more than a little disconcerting to see the non existent traffic patterns that have bicycles, scooters, cars, buses, and pedestrians all in the intersection at the same time, cutting each other off at the pass.

Cars seldom stay in their lanes and pedestrians don’t have the right of way. To add to our panic, we saw no one except a McDonalds and Pizza Hut delivery person wear a helmet. Parents would have small children on their bike or scooter with no helmet and not strapped on in any way.

Shopping – You can haggle prices with all shops that sell trinkets to tourists, whether it be a street vendor or a factory shop. Items were reduced by as much as 50 to 75% when we said no to the price or the item.

Dress – The women wear dresses often even when biking, shopping, and even climbing the Great Wall! If they have on pants, the top is dressy. The men dress much more casually than the women.

We rarely saw tennis shoes except on children.  We only saw one male with sagging pants.  Pants tended to be at the waist or higher.  We also only saw one person with visible tattoos.

Pharmacy – The pharmacies are stand-alone shops and the pharmacist and workers all wear white medical garb. We found no English-speaking workers, which was challenging when asking for certain over the counter medicines or creams.

Food – The American fast food restaurants seen were K of C, Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Subway.

We enjoyed most of our Chinese cuisine but did not sample the innards or organ meats or the scorpions on a stick. 

Fruit (watermelon and cantaloupe) is often served as dessert.  The food is healthy even the street vendor selections. Their carts sell boiled corn on the cob and many fresh fruits like watermelon on a stick. You won’t see cotton candy or elephant ears around here.China Scorpions on a Stick

Beverages – The drinks are often served at room temperature. It was sometimes hard to find a cold soft drink or cold water bottle.

We were the only ones requesting a beverage with meals. Our hosts seldom had any beverage and if they did, it was warm tea, wine or beer.


Other noticings:

  • There are few African Americans (but our guides tell us there are many Chinese in Africa).
  • People stopped us in the street, at tourist attractions, and even the airport to be photographed with us.
  • We saw homeless people especially near tourist attractions. We learned from our guide that there is no service provided to them such as food banks or shelters.

IPS in China — VI

June 19th, 2013 at 3:15 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog, Uncategorized

This is the latest blog entry from the IPS delegation in China.  Chris Collier, Ann Mennonno and Amy Wackerly started the journey with an Elementary Education conference.  This describes their last day in Beijing.  As you read this, they’re on the way to a school in Chengdu.  Ann Mennonno, the new IPS Teacher of the Year, prepared the following post.

June 18, 2013

china exerciseI woke up early this morning and walked to a local park. Many local citizens were there exercising. I sat for quite a while to watch them. It was beautiful. There traditional dance like movements were so peaceful. Others were dancing with long ribbons and some with swords. The meditative process and way they used every part of their bodies was amazing. There were people of all ages at the park exercising, even in their 80′s and 90′s. They were doing strengthening, stretching, and breathing exercises along with self-massages and acupressure.  It seemed much more complete, balanced, and relaxing than my normal power walks at home. I will definitely research this more!

Our sighting today took us first to Tiananmen Square. The gardens here were magnificent. We strolled the square then headed to our second site — The Forbidden City.  The Forbidden City was the Chinese Imperial Palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty.  It sits in the middle of Beijing. The Forbidden City was completed in 1420 and consists of 980 buildings that cover 7,800,000 square feet. I have never seen anything like this palace before! Being the history lover that I am I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this palace. The one down side to the visit was how busy it was — it was Disney World busy!

Gardens at Forbidden City

Gardens at Forbidden City

We rounded out our sightseeing visits returning to Houhai again to do a little gift shopping. We have learned that you always ask for a lower price (I’m not good at this!) But there was a nice chess set I was interested in that was marked at 700 Yuan (which is about $119) that I got marked down to 100 Yuan!  We also met two Americans that we briefly chatted with.  We found out they were from Baltimore and huge Raven fans so we sent them on their way :) Just kidding – we showed them our Hoosier hospitality!Tomorrow we leave Beijing and head to Chengdu to begin our adventure all over again. Amy and I can’t wait to meet the students in our Chengdu school that we have been FaceTiming with for the past three months. 

Tomorrow’s blog will be our wrap up thoughts of Beijing – we have listed many things we can’t wait to share.

IPS in China — V

June 18th, 2013 at 3:37 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

The IPS delegation in China enjoyed a little tourist time.  Teacher Amy Wackerly prepared the following post to describe the experience she shared at the Great Wall with teacher Ann Mennonno and Chris Collier, head of the Center for Inquiry Schools.  (And, we’re getting more pictures!)

Monday, June 17, 2013 Blog

Great Wall Day!!

The Juyong Pass at the Great Wall of China

The Juyong Pass at the Great Wall of China

Today was a very exciting day for the three of us.  We were able to walk the awe-inspiring Great Wall of China.  The section of wall we walked was called the Juyong Pass.  It is northwest of Beijing.  It was a beautiful day and the first day we’ve seen blue skies since we’ve been here.  I think we were all amazed at the beauty and steepness of the climb.  As we were climbing the goal was to not let the people with canes or high heels pass us.  Trust me, that was a real challenge at times.  

The Great Wall spans 5,600 kilometers.  We found it very interesting that there were many gold locks (love locks) along the Great Wall path on these chains. We learned that when people get married they lock the lock on the wall and then throw the key over the wall to symbolize their everlasting love.  We felt very accomplished after we climbed down.

After we left the Great Wall and visited a jade factory.  We watched a craftsman work on a piece of jade.  He was working on a piece that is called “happiness ball”.  It will take him 25 days working 4 or 5 hours a day to carve this piece out of a solid piece of jade.  When he is done it will have 4 moveable balls, one inside another, representing 4 generations. 

Jade Craftsman

Jade Craftsman

Following lunch we headed out to see on of the tombs of the Ming Dynasty.  This ruler, Emperor Zhu Di,was the third emperor in the dynasty and was responsible for moving the capital to it’s current location in Beijing.  We saw a massive copper statue of Emperor Zhu Di; people throw money at the foot of the statue for good luck.  The building that housed the statue contained many artifacts like jade belts, crowns, and gold pieces.  The next building housed the marker for the tomb, and then Emperor Zhu Di was buried in the hill behind the tomb marker.  I think we were all impressed with the details within the building and the rich history of this area. 

The next stop was a silk factory.  We learned about the process of making silk.  She showed us how the silkworm cocoons will have one or two silkworms inside.  The one with two worms inside is used more for bedding because the silk crisscrosses.  The one used for clothing only has one worm inside of it.  The part that I really did not need to know was that the silkworm poop is used as the stuffing inside some pillows…like at our hotel! 

In addition to climbing the Great Wall our next great accomplishment was crossing the street by ourselves without getting hit by a car, bus, bike, or moped.  Pedestrians do not have the right of way! 

We are looking forward to another day of sightseeing tomorrow.  We are seeing the Forbidden City (or sin city as Chris keeps calling it) and Tiananmen Square.

IPS in China — IV

June 17th, 2013 at 2:53 pm by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

This is the latest post from the IPS team at an education conference in China.  The writer, today, is teacher Amy Wackerly.  [She is joined by Chris Collier, the head of Center for Inquiry Schools in Indianapolis and by Ann Mennonno, the new IPS Teacher of the Year.]

China conference roomJune 16

We began the final day of the Beijing portion of our Elementary Education International Conference at the Wu Qing Conference Center. There were around 600 participants in the audience. The session started with opening comments from the president of Beijing Normal University and a senior professor from the same university.  Next we listened to the keynote speakers from Stanford University.  Professor Ann Lieberman presented on networks and partnerships and Professor Andrea Whitaker discussed using teacher portfolios to support student learning.  

The conference center had theater-style seat with desks in front of each row of chairs.  We listened to translators on headphones as different groups presented.  When our group got up to present some of the teachers from YuYing School commented on the lessons Ann and I did.  They were very complimentary of our lessons and felt we were very patient with the students.  They said the students were very shy and nervous about speaking English but we were very encouraging and supportive of the students, and they were very much at ease as we got into the lessons.  They also felt like we really take the time to get to know our students.  Chris, Ann and I also provided comments about our experiences in the school. We discussed similarities and differences we noticed while working with the students in China in comparison to US students.

After a buffet lunch we had to bid farewell to our friends from Hong Kong.  We left the conference and were able to do our first sightseeing since our arrival.  Our stop for today was the Summer Palace.  The Summer Palace used to be an imperial palace but is now a beautiful park.  We toured the site with another group of teachers from Kennedy Elementary in Janesville, Wisconsin.  I think we were all impressed with landscape and the architecture.  I especially enjoyed the Long Corridor, the area around the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity, and all the rocks within the walkways.  The Long Corridor has over 10,000 paintings on the wood beams and ceiling depicting important parts Chinese history and culture.

IPS Delegation with friends from Hong Kong

IPS Delegation with friends from Hong Kong

After dinner we headed out for some nightlife.  The area we went was called Houhai.  It was an area around a lake with all kinds of shops, bars and people.  We went with our friends from Stanford University, Kennedy Elementary (Janesville, WI), Guoli Liang (the conference organizer) and some new Chinese friends.  We heard great music and the area reminded us of Broad Ripple meets San Antonio Riverwalk meets Bourbon Street.  The whole area was lit up in neon and different types of lighting.  One of the shops we passed had fried scorpions on a stick.  In case you were wondering, there were no takers in our group.

Tomorrow we are off to explore the Great Wall.

IPS in China — III

June 16th, 2013 at 11:25 am by under Eric Halvorson's Blog, Uncategorized

I have a new blog post from the IPS delegation in China.  The following offers some insight about being a tourist in Beijing — in addition to being a teacher.  (Take a look at the toilet reference.)  This was submitted by Ann Mennonno, the new IPS Teacher of the Year.

china flagJune 15, 2013

Today we completed our part of the conference in Beijing. We repeat our sessions in Chengdu next week. Our teaching demonstrations and presentations were overall well received.  Amy and I both did lessons with our students again.  Both of our lessons focused on teaching reading. We modeled how teaching reading can be integrated with our science units. All of the students we have worked with have been amazing! Their English is excellent. At the end of our lessons we gave each student a bookmark made by the students at CFI 2 and CFI 27 in Indianapolis.  We also gave them pens that we received from Visit Indy. The students loved their gifts. Several of the students had gifts for us too. We will miss the students from the YuYing primary school. In the short time we had to work with them we have created wonderful memories.

Chris [Chris Collier, the head of CFI schools] presented on the topic of school community and the shared leadership structure in place throughout the Center for Inquiry, which includes parents, community members, university partners, school staff, principals, and the head of CFI schools. Participants were amazed at the extra time teachers put forth and how involved they are in the life of the school.  They wondered about the source of the energy and passion of the teachers.

After our conference wrapped up today we attended a beautiful Chinese banquet.  I have enjoyed our dinners in China. They are very relaxing and extremely social events. People eat slowly – dinner lasts a long time. Between helpings everyone takes turns toasting each other. We have made many new friends and have thoroughly enjoyed our time with them. Two of our new friends are from Hong Kong. These ladies teach at a Christian school in Hong Kong. We have enjoyed many laughs with them and hope that someday we will be able to visit their school.

Now for the interesting details…the things we have had to adjust to. I love visiting other cultures and learning their ways. I have traveled to many places but this is my first time in China. I will honestly admit that I miss dearly our toilets. It’s amazing how long you can wait before you must absolutely use one. If you do not know what I’m talking about – Google it :)

Using chopsticks has been another adventure for me. I’ve decided chopsticks are my new diet plan. I can only get small portions of food to my mouth. I think it might be a plan that could be marketed in the US???

Finally, we have had our photos taken so many times here- our smiles are glued to our faces. Smiling hurts after awhile :) None of the above are complaints by any means. I truly am enjoying our visit and can’t wait to still explore more of this country.

Tomorrow…we visit Sin City and shop!

I googled the bathroom concern, click here to see what she’s talking about.


IPS in China — II

June 15th, 2013 at 11:02 am by under Eric Halvorson's Blog

We are still awaiting the arrival of photographs from the IPS team in Beijing, China.  But, we do have the following blog post, from Chris Collier, to update their role in an international conference on Elementary Education.  (You will see a reference to Amy.  That is Amy Wackerly, also an IPS teacher.)


Ann Mennonno

The agenda for day 1 began with an introductory presentation by Chris Collier to orient the conference participants to the Center for Inquiry, International Baccalaureate programs, and the concept of a Magnet School. A translator was assigned to us for clarity of presentation, as many of the 600 conference participants were not English speakers.

Both Amy and Ann taught a model lesson and presented a topical session. Amy introduced Ann’s lesson, a science lesson on magnetic force. The participants watched via video screen as Ann taught her lesson to a group 3rd graders. Ann’s students created paper shapes that they made dance using magnets but without touching the shapes.  The students were challenged with a further question seeing if they could interrupt the magnetic field by placing an object between the magnet and paperclip in their dancing shape.  Amy stayed in the conference room to provide explanation of what the participants were viewing within the lesson and answering questions that ranged from teacher preparation in the U.S. to methodology utilized by our teachers. At the conclusion of Ann’s lesson, she joined the conference participants to address specific questions regarding her lesson including the planning process and collaborative work of teachers.

Amy presented next on the topic of Responsive Classroom, which is a set of community building practices used within CFI schools.  She shared examples of classroom Essential Agreements, a set of expectations that all members of the classroom agree to follow. Amy discussed opportunities for choice within the school, student action, parent and community involvement, and student collaboration. Participants asked questions about how student choice is managed, if our school is always open to parents and how this is managed, and why families choose our school.

After lunch, Ann introduced Amy’s geology lesson to the conference participants. As Amy’s lesson with 5th graders was observed, a translator was ensuring that conference participants knew what Amy was saying to students. Amy’s students used a science notebook to record observations of minerals and then set up a data table to record results of scratch tests to determine the hardness of the minerals. Students then identified the minerals through their observations, scratch test results and Amy’s description of the mineral. She then introduced the students to Moh’s Hardness Scale and additional minerals. Concluding the lesson, Amy had students record in their notebooks what they had learned that day and their “I wonder…” questions. Amy returned to the conference room to field questions regarding her lesson and the teaching and learning strategies utilized within the lesson. Conference participants wanted to know how she plans for her lessons, how she obtains materials, the number of concepts taught in a semester, and what differences she noted between the Chinese students and her American students.

Ann presented the topic of Differentiated Instruction to conference participants giving authentic examples from her classroom. Participants wanted to know more about the integration of subjects, specifically how a teacher would link a science lesson to literature as they are viewed as very different disciplines.

Day 1 of the conference ended with a summary session facilitated by Chris. Participants worked in small groups to record their “take aways” from the day and to record questions they wished us to further address.