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‘When it’s fun, it’s easier to learn’

By Nick Yates, ISB Communications

For any journalist, having your work reviewed by a senior editor is a nerve-racking but constructive process. Middle School students at the International School of Beijing (ISB) passed this trial with flying colors when they presented their documentary films about old Beijing to a visiting professional last week.

Students studying Chinese as an additional language had taken field trips to traditional businesses and sites around China’s capital, conducted interviews, and made short videos about historical and present-day life in Beijing. Gao Fang, from local television network BTV came to their class to check out the students’ work and give them tips from her time as a reporter and director.

“I was really surprised and pleased by the standard of their work,” said Ms. Gao. “The children displayed a very good understanding of how to construct a film.”

For a novice filmmaker, she said, the main difficulty is thinking about the overall concept and cohesiveness of the documentary, rather than getting bogged down in the technical requirements of microphones and editing software.

The videos were an example of project-based learning at ISB. The school organizes for students to leave the classroom for truly engaging experiences. Teachers here are committed to challenging and joyful learning with the freedom to explore.

Students really benefited from interacting with locals in Chinese then processing the material into their documentaries. “Making a film encourages you to think in a logical way,” according to Ms. Gao. “Specifically, this one encouraged these foreign students to think about how Chinese people view the world.” (Thanks to Christine H and Chloe B in Grade 8 for translation of Ms. Gao’s comments.)

Christine and Jocelyn C, also Grade 8, agreed about how good the experience was. “It’s more fun, and when it’s more fun, it’s easier to learn,” said Christine.

Challenges they faced included getting through the work required in a limited amount of time, and persuading interview subjects to participate. Jocelyn and Christine explained that they overcame these challenges through working in a team, with individuals taking on distinct roles, and through carefully introducing themselves and being polite to the people they wanted to question.

What do you think to their achievements? You can check out the videos below.

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