A Tale of Four Cities

Last week, our Middle School students took a break from the routine of school to embark on learning adventures across the globe. All through this term, they had been learning the content from Japan in the Edo period, applied marine science, the history of Hong Kong to sustainability and environmental impact studies. The educational adventures which took place in four destinations - Bali, California, Japan and Hong Kong - not only gave our Middle Schoolers an opportunity to learn outside the classroom and in real life situations but also fostered stronger bonds between students and teachers.



Six students and four teachers headed out to Southern California. They learned about conservation efforts at the Marine Mammal Center and the Bird Rescue Center which provide dedicated care for abandoned and injured sea animals. At the Bird Rescue Center, they learned about all the threats from human activities that the beautiful sea birds they saw faced and observed many birds including a Loon found covered in oil being treated at the Center. The next day at the Ocean Institute at Dana Point, students literally took the plunge into learning as they snorkelled and learned about squid anatomy during the Living Systems Lab session. Students measured water parameters, and learned many interesting facts about life in the ocean before heading out to the Research Vessel Sea Explorer where they learned how to retrieve a bottom trawl from the water and discovered many marine animals including a massive red crab.


The trip was filled with many memorable moments but surely one of the highlights was sailing to the Catalina Island onboard the Resolute, sister ship to the Black Dolphin under the gorgeous, sunny and blue Californian skies. On Catalina Island, students was guided by the esteemed Dr Lynn Whitley who is Director of Education at the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. They learned about and experienced the USC Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber - an emergency medical facility for the treatment of scuba diving accidents. Students were closed into the large chamber with an instructor and taken to simulated depth of one foot under water. They were surprised to discover that even though they had only gone down a foot, the pressure increase was equal to 0.433 psi which didn’t seem like much until they were asked to calculate the pressure pushing against the door of the chamber by figuring out the area of the door in square inches and multiplying that by the pounds per square inch (psi) at one foot.


On their last day, students visited the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego which is the oldest center for ocean and earth research in the US and was founded in 1903. Students were given a tour of the Scripps research pier which is bristling with instrumentation above and below the water, the original of which was built when the Institute was founded. The Scripps Oceanographic Collections make up the largest and most complete university-based oceanographic collection in the world. Comprised of millions of biological and geological marine specimens, the collections are irreplaceable because they record the state of the ocean environment at specific points in time over the past century.  Our students were given a personal tour of the Pelagic Invertebrates Collection, one of the world's preeminent collections of marine zooplankton housing more than 133,000 whole zooplankton samples, by Ms.Linsey Sala, Museum Scientist and Collection Manager.



A group of 17 Middle School students and two teachers and their Japanese guides walked sections of the Nakasendo Way in Japan to experience what life might have been like as travellers in the Edo Period. The trail dates all the way to the Edo Period, an era in Japan’s history spanning from 1603 to 1868. The route saw heavy traffic and 69 stations and post towns developed along it providing rest, food and resupply for travellers. The Nakasendo Way was used by the shogunate, messengers, pilgrims, merchants, samurai, traders and travellers and its decline is directly linked to the end of the Edo period. Our Middle Schoolers walked about 12 kilometers a day, staying in former post towns Magome, Tsumago and Narai in the beautiful Kiso Valley. They were fully immersed in Japanese culture. Students learned to make soba, saw the very rare Kiso horses (there are only 140 in the world), visited Nagoya Castle, made new friends and had a lot of fun when they joined Kiso Junior Middle School students for sumo wrestling PE class.  



7 Middle School students headed off to Bali, Indonesia for an action and learning-packed adventure which featured a collaboration with the Green School, a progressive school in Bali committed to educating for sustainability in a natural environment which shares many of its ethos about learning with THS.


Led by THS Foundry teacher Mr Mark Barnett and Mr Driver from the Green School, Middle school students from both schools learned to make their own torchlights using wires, batteries, bamboo, a recycled water bottle and aluminium can during a two-hour “Ideas Lab” at Green school. The task was not easy at all and students were very focused and resilient and justly proud of what they accomplished on the day. At a traditional village, students learned how to make their own coconut oil in what turned out to be a fairly tricky but rewarding task. They also enjoyed using the coconut shavings as an exfoliant on their arms. Going back to the Green School, they finished their projects after another two hours at Ideas Lab. On their last lesson in sustainability with the Green School, students hopped on the school’s bio bus which runs on biofuel. In Ubud, students collected old cooking oil from local restaurants and brought it back to the Green School to process into biofuel. One of many highlights for students on the Bali trip was when they foraged for their own vegetables at the family farm they were staying at and learned to cook a delicious six-course meal using local ingredients such as galangal, turmeric, white ginger, spinach, chilli, green beans and lemongrass. Students really enjoyed the food in Bali and their favourite dishes include pork satay, sweet and sour tempe, tuna, Balinese chicken curry, corn fritters and spicy peanut sauce.


Amongst the stunning green and vibrant landscape, students had also observed the scourge of plastic and rubbish on the environment in Bali. On day four of their trip, students and teachers collected a huge amount of trash in their bags on a nature walk around Alam Sari where they were staying. Later in the day, they visited and toured a local vocational school for students aged 16 years and older trained to work in the hotel industry. THS students were taught by the school’s students traditional Balinese dancing and making ceremonial offerings using coconut stems and flowers. Despite the incredibly busy itinerary in Bali, students enjoyed themselves so much they were sad to see the end of it.


Hong Kong

Despite living and studying in this city called Hong Kong, many students are surprisingly unaware of its history. For the Middle School students who were unable to go on the international trips, the Middle School teaching team put together an action and content-packed experiential week for these students. On Monday morning, students visited the Maritime Museum to learn about the history of Hong Kong as a harbor, and the ships that traded through it. In the afternoon, students and teachers took to the waters of Hong Kong harbor on the historic Star Ferry to step back into the 1960’s world of cross harbor travel whilst looking at a cityscape that is now unrecognizable. Unfortunately, this month of May is also one of the wettest springs on record so teachers and students had to endure the humid and hot climate whilst exploring Hong Kong. At the Maritime Museum, students learned about the history of plague in the city in a first-hand exploration and investigation into plague rats, mosquitoes and a guided tour of the supporting science by Middle School Science coordinator Mrs Susan Shepherd.


Students also visited the courts and jails of Tai Kwun and learned about the pioneers in Hong Kong’s early history. Middle School Literacy coordinator, Mrs Jenny Stroud took the small band of Middle School students through the oldest parts of Hong Kong including the oldest cathedral St John’s and the oldest colonial barracks which still stand in Hong Kong park. On Thursday, students learned about old traditions and lifestyle of Hong Kong starting with the tea ceremonies of the city learned at the Flagstaff Museum. In the afternoon, students and teachers took to the water again on the oldest surviving Junk boat in Hong Kong which was rescued from the waters of the harbor where traditions such as net making were learnt. On the final day of the Middle School trip week, students learned about the natural history of Hong Kong going back millions of years and tracing it forward, learning about the colorful rituals and ancient traditions no longer celebrated, to its current success as a global financial center.


As teachers, we are really proud of our Middle School students who were not only a pleasure to be with but showed a a lot curiosity and willingness to learn even when the going gets tough. Our students who went to Japan enjoyed the long hikes and ascents whilst our students in Hong Kong were surprised to learn so much about this city which they live in but did not know very much about. In every destination, we connected with local communities and came away learning about their cultures, lifestyle and perspectives.


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