Project Learning Exemplar: "Exceedingly Fascinating and Charming Bamboo"
Generally speaking, gifted students are strongly sensitive about problems, and their analytical and integrating abilities are greater than those of average students. They also enjoy thinking on a broader scale, and show particular interest in activities that require observation and exploration. Therefore, project learning is an ideal mode for them. Ms. Yip Yee Lan, a Hong Kong teacher, has designed a learning curriculum that takes bamboo as its main theme. This provides flexible learning opportunities for students. Bamboo has long been closely associated with Chinese culture; and many poets and calligraphers have appreciated its beauty through prose, poems and paintings. Bamboo is very useful in creating works of art. It can be carved, and musical instruments can be made out of it. Moreover, bamboo plays an important practical role in many facets of everyday life. After being processed, it can be used to make various cooking utensils (e.g. bamboo tubes that rice is cooked in), toys (e.g. bamboo sticks), clothes and accessories (e.g. bamboo hats), and many other commonly used items (e.g. bamboo baskets). Teachers may therefore adopt bamboo as the theme for an academic, artistic, functional or integrative approach that is based on their different teaching objectives in the fields of languages, art and general studies. Under their guidance, gifted students can acquire and build new knowledge and enhance their learning abilities. Furthermore, gifted students can simultaneously develop and apply generic skills (such as creativity, communications skills, critical thinking skills and collaborative skills).
Project learning activities based on "Exceedingly Fascinating and Charming Bamboo" can be taught in line with different modules of General Studies in Primary Schools. For example, in the module "All People Belong to One Family", the study of bamboo can be used to deepen students' understanding about lifestyles in different countries, by understanding how it is used in cooking, clothing, housing, transportation, games, etc.
Bamboo can also be incorporated into Primary 4 art lessons. Teachers may introduce it as a creative material, and then go on to enable gifted students to use it in making some art works of their own; for example, toys, bamboo lanterns, and pictures made from bamboo splinters and leaves. To align with the learning abilities of gifted students and the "Splendid Chinese Culture" module for Primary 6 General Studies, the bamboo programme can cover general knowledge about Chinese culture (e.g. dancing, food and folk culture). It can also introduce knowledge relating to Chinese language teaching, such as poetry appreciation and essays about bamboo. Through such diversified activities, the programme enables students to explore the topic of bamboo from many different perspectives. Not only does this enhance their subject knowledge and skills in General Studies, Chinese Language, Art, etc., it enables them to experience and gain a better understanding of the essence of Chinese culture. In addition, by systematically explaining project-learning techniques, learning together and sharing their experience with their students, teachers can guide them through every single type of project-learning activity. In this way, they can achieve a fruitful learning outcome. The topic of bamboo also poses challenges to gifted students. Through it, they are enabled to apply their knowledge in various areas, so that they can view the subject of bamboo from different perspectives. By appreciating the aesthetic value of bamboo and cultivating an interest in language and art appreciation, students not only increase their general knowledge, but also acquire techniques they need for broad thinking and project learning.
Target: Primary 4 and Primary 5 Gifted Students
The Learning and Teaching Process:
The programme consists of four stages:
During the preparatory stage, teachers guide their students in collecting information from various channels, so that they can become aware of the significance of bamboo in everyday life by appreciating both its practical and aesthetic value. Teachers may start by taking them to Panford Park in Shatin to visit an event called the "Production of Millennium Lanterns". They can then bring them to Shing Mun Reservoir, where they will learn to appreciate the beautiful appearance of different varieties of bamboo, and understand its characteristics through on-site activities. After the visits, they will be asked to research and gather information about bamboo from libraries, newspapers, and the Internet. For example, they can study how toys, furniture and transportation tools are made from bamboo, gather pictures of everyday articles made from bamboo, and learn how bamboo is used in preparing food. Through such research, they will learn more about the relationships between bamboo and our daily lives. Teachers can use a mind map to inspire the students to consider the many uses of bamboo. In the final phase, teachers can show the class some masterpieces made from bamboo by past students, and discuss the content, style and other requirements of the project. They can then show the students how they can design the study's main theme; how to collect, select, analyse and apply the information they collect; and point out things they should note about the presentation of their reports.
During the planning stage, students can individually explore particular aspects of bamboo that interest them. They may choose their own project-learning theme in the preliminary stage, followed by relevant studies. Teachers can encourage students to draw pictures and write poems about bamboo. They can teach them how to perform the "Bamboo Dance", and they can visit the "Bamboo Carving of the Ming and Qing Dynasties" exhibition at the University Museum and Art Gallery of the University of Hong Kong. During the visit, the students will see examples of bamboo tools related to daily necessities. By completing a "Record of Visit" worksheet, they will enhance their knowledge about bamboo art. In addition, teachers should give their students other opportunities to undertake different tasks to increase their interest in a particular aspect of bamboo. The students can then be divided into different groups according to their potential and abilities, so that they can actively participate in brainstorming activities. After exchanging views in their discussions, group members will set their own learning themes and objectives together, and design the scope and work plan for their learning project.
During the execution stage, students will collect information from various sources, such as the Internet, newspaper clippings, library reference book, and so forth. They can then employ a mind-map to select and analyse the data they have collected. Based on the agreed theme, they will collect materials and tools for their projects to facilitate individual or group creations. Such projects may centre on dancing, musical instruments, toys, recipes, tools, clothes and everyday articles, furniture, works of art, etc.
At the integration stage, students will present their project-learning reports, exhibit their findings and share their learning processes and learning outcomes with their classmates. Teachers will also provide opportunities for students to view their performances at different learning stages. Moreover, students can also use the "Performance Assessment Form for Different Learning Stages" to conduct self-assessment and peer assessment. Teachers may employ a number of assessment methods to assess their students' performances and learning results throughout the whole learning process, in order to enhance their self-directed learning ability.
The design of this programme was based on General Studies. Elements of Chinese Language and Art Education were also introduced to guide students in learning about themes related to bamboo. Through diversified activities, they were motivated to learn about and explore the subject of bamboo more deeply, and from different perspectives. Not only could they grasp subject knowledge and skills, they were also empowered to apply the skills they had learnt during the learning project.
Students conducted project-learning tasks in line with their own interests about different aspects of bamboo. They learnt how to collect information from various channels, such as site visits, field-study trips, the Internet, library books, newspapers, magazines etc. Useful information was selected during the collection stage. Students then applied various methods to validate and analyse the information they had collected, and obtained materials and tools related to the designated theme of the learning project, in order to complete it. During the learning process, they were required to step out from the classroom for life-wide learning. Their experience taught them that observation and personal visits were far more interesting than traditional learning. Through outings, their horizons were broadened, and their motivation and learning abilities enhanced. The quality of their project learning reports undoubtedly improved. Through student projects, they were able to express their feelings and create works of practical use, many of which were very creative. The students were encouraged to see what they could learn by facing new challenges, daring to try, understanding how to think comprehensively, and grasping the fundamental skills related to a learning project.