Ninth Grade Four Point trips provide an opportunity for ninth grade Gould students to travel the world while bonding with their classmates. Immersing themselves in an unfamiliar culture with purpose allows students to become responsible global citizens, not just tourists. In addition to exploring a new culture, students are asked to keep a journal while they are abroad to reflect on their individual experiences. These reflections are used to write a TED Talk-style presentation that will be delivered to their peers during the Spring Trimester.
Kevin journaling in Beijing
Gould’s partnerships with local schools allow students to discover more about the country’s history, dive into their contemporary culture, arrange homestays, and experience rich interactions that would otherwise be impossible. It also gives us the chance to play host and return the favor when our friends from the Chengdu Experimental Foreign Languages School (CEFLS) visit Gould the following year. Ninth Grade Four Point is the epitome of Experiential Learning. It breaks down the barriers of classroom walls and brings Human Geography, Freshman English, and World History to life.
Gould students have been traveling to China and visiting CEFLS for over ten years now, and we are extremely fortunate to be able to offer these connections to our students. Here are just a few highlights from this year’s trip to Beijing, Kunming, and Chengdu; excerpts were pulled from the reports of trip leaders Kelly Hood, Colin Penley, Gabby Scheffler, and Tom Whittington.
Beijing: Day 1! The Great Wall
March 5, 2018
From Kelly Hood and Gabby Schreffler Blue skies with a nice breeze allowed for great views and a sunny hike during the day as we headed from tower to tower of the ancient landmark. It was nice to get out and moving after sitting on the long plane ride, but we’re expecting some sore legs tomorrow. After hiking for a while, we stopped and had a nice picnic lunch on one of the platforms and got to try some Chinese snacks—cucumber potato chips, cheesecake pocky, and the infamous meat candies!
No walls between these three
After dinner, we ventured to the Night Market to eat different treats and desserts. Mr. Whittington lead a group straight to the first stand where he modeled his adventurous spirit by trying scorpion. Kalena followed in his path, raving about the spider she ate.
Adventurous eating in the Night Market
Beijing: Day 2, Time in the Forbidden City
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
From Gabby Schreffler, Kelly Hood, Colin Penley, and Tom Whittington We headed out to explore the Forbidden City. On our way, we walked around the outside of Tian’anmen Square, the world’s largest public square. From there we could see the gates to the Forbidden City, where we were greeted by a large portrait of Chairman Mao. Once inside the walls, it was as if we had transported into a different era. This maze of temples was built for the emperor in Ancient China and has almost 10,000 rooms! We wandered around, making our way through some rooms, down the aisles, and through the temples.
The Forbidden City
Cassie, Bella, and Yusuke
Beijing: Day 3, Heaven Sent
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
From Gabby Schreffler, Kelly Hood, Colin Penley, and Tom Whittington Our last full day in Beijing did not disappoint. After breakfast at the hostel, we trekked to the Dirt Market—an outside market lined with stalls and little shops where local craftsmen and women sold their paintings, beads, figurines, and other tchotchkes. We got a lesson in how to barter in another language. Each salesperson is equipped with a calculator into which a customer types in their intended price for the item. The salesperson then shakes their head curiously and enters a usually outrageous number in return. Repeat steps one and two until a compromise is made.
Students haggle in the Dirt Market
After lunch, we headed to the beautiful Temple of Heaven, a place of Taoist worship built in Ancient China. Inside, the ceilings were covered with intricately designed patterns. Did you know the Temple of Heaven was built entirely out of wood, with not one nail?
The Temple of Heaven
Tomorrow we will wake up and head to the airport where the groups will split up, heading to warmer weather in Chengdu and Kunming. Everyone is anxious to meet their host families and continue the adventure.
Chengdu: Day 1, Chengdu Experimental Foreign Languages School
March 8, 2018
From Kelly Hood When we arrived on campus, the students were in awe of the new facilities. CEFLS actually moved to this campus just this week! We had the opportunity to see the new athletic facility and observe part of an exercise class. At 6:00 pm, each Gould student met the person who would be hosting them for the next several days. Our students were given a handmade sign and flowers as a welcome—kind gestures that helped calm their anxious thoughts. They left with their host families for the evening and will reunite with the whole group early tomorrow morning for another day full of adventure.
Students with their hosts
Kunming: Day 2, School Visits
March 9, 2018
From Gabby Schreffler and Tom Whittington After lunch, we climbed to the fourth floor for a Chinese painting class. We used special brushes and ink and worked on practicing different strokes to create realistic bamboo shoots. The group was split into two and were challenged to a friendly competition. Although the score wasn’t officially tallied, it was concluded that Aidan, Kevin, Mia, and Hunter took home the prize, however, Celeste showed some true artistic abilities in her drawings!
Work in Progress
Chengdu: Day 2, The Giant Buddha
March 9, 2018
From Kelly Hood and Colin Penley A majority of our day was spent traveling to and from Leshan to see the Giant Buddha, a world heritage site. On our way, we stopped at a local restaurant and ate a number of Leshan specialties like the radish soup and the spicy chicken. Once we completed our meal, we took a boat tour, which gave us the opportunity to see the Giant Buddha from below. We were all impressed by the vast structure and eagerly took a group photo in front of it.
After the boat returned to the dock, we had the opportunity to see the Giant Buddha more closely. As we climbed the stairs, we saw the smaller carvings along the walls. When we finally reached the top, we descended a steep staircase. It was incredible to see it from this perspective. Many people lit candles and said prayers while we stood in awe of the effect the Buddha had on everyone.
Alexander poses for a photo with a monk from Gansu province
Kunming: Day 4, Celebrating Yunnan’s Ethnic Diversity
March 11, 2018
From Gabby Schreffler and Tom Whittington Our hosts joined us on a trip to the Yunnan Nationalities Village, about a half hour bus ride from the school. We even rented our own city bus! Once we arrived, we set off to explore the 25 Yunnan minority groups, all with their own little theme village throughout the park.
The first stop for many was the elephant by the gates. Cassie was first up, sitting on the elephant’s back while we all took pictures. Hunter stepped up the plate as well, opting for a ride on the elephant’s trunk; turns out they are very strong!
Chengdu: Day 5, Panda-monium
March 12, 2018
From Kelly Hood and Colin Penley We eagerly anticipated our destination because it involved seeing panda bears. In the park, we saw Red and Giant Pandas of varying sizes and ages. We took numerous photos, including a group selfie with one of the bears. Many of us admired the pandas’ lifestyle and joked that we too would love to eat and sleep all day. They appeared so satisfied and content with life. It was a great reminder that we should slow down and be present in everything that we do.
Kunming: Day 6, The Shilin Stone Forest
March 13, 2018
From Gabby Schreffler and Tom Whittington
The Stone Forest
This morning we gathered at 8:30 am and boarded a van to travel to the Stone Forest.It was a quiet ride, as most of us were tired and looking forward to the opportunity for a sleepy van ride.Once we arrived, we were refreshed and ready to explore.
Stone Forest – Lotus Pond
The Stone Forest is a collection of amazingly jagged and tall rocks that look as if they were carved by man. The park was absolutely beautiful, and the warm sunny day made it even more enjoyable. We walked around together, taking time to wander off into crevices and take pictures atop rocks and by lakes.
Chengdu: Day 6, Lots of New Friends
March 13, 2018
From Kelly Hood and Colin Penley We spent the afternoon at the primary school that is affiliated with the Chengdu Experimental Foreign Languages School. We had our best afternoon yet. The experience is almost impossible to put into words. Picture hundreds of energetic eight to twelve year olds eagerly participating in class and then running rambunctiously through the school playground. We had the opportunity to attend four different classes. During the first period, we learned about the traditional blue and white pottery that China is well known for. We even got to make our own.
To conclude our long but rewarding day, we made our own dumplings at the primary school. A big thank you to their dining hall staff for providing us with the ingredients and for modeling how to fold the wrappers in unique ways. After eating the delicious meal we made, everyone congregated outside to take pictures and say goodbye.
Kunming: Day 7, Goodbye Kunming
March 14, 2018
From Gabby Schreffler and Tom Whittington Our final day in Kunming!We met at 8 am this morning and took off to The Kunming Economic Development #3 Middle School. When we arrived, we toured the spacious track and field area as well as the school’s “Happy Farm.” When the bell sounded, the students all filed onto the field and conducted their daily exercises. Once complete, a representative of the school introduced us and we watched two dragon dances and a modern dance performed by the students. After the assembly, we had a go at doing the dragon dance. The dragon is held up by nine poles, with a leader in front guiding the movements. It is a lot harder than it looks, but I think we made a few decent arrangements!
Learning to lead
The Dragon chasing it’s tail
After the dragon dancing lesson, we attended a robotics class. This school placed first in all of Southwestern China in a highly competitive robotics competition.We watched and helped the students as they programmed their robots and test drove them on a course.
Afterward, it was off with the hosts for the last dinner before we all meet again at a hotel tonight. It’s an early morning tomorrow and we’ll be doing a bit of time travel, but we’re ready to bring back some great memories. See you all on the other side!
Chengdu: Day 7, The Beginnings of Goodbye
March 14, 2018 (Pi day!)
(From Kelly Hood and Colin Penley) We sat down for our last traditional style meal before our departure tomorrow. We enjoyed numerous dishes, but more importantly, we enjoyed the company of our new friends. After dinner, students returned to their host families for one final evening together before we all meet at the airport for a very early flight. We have had an incredible 12 days and cannot wait to bring all of our stories back to the Gould community!
Students and hosts enjoy one last meal as a group
A lot happens on Ninth Grade Four Point. So much, that it’s impossible to encapsulate it here. Students travel great distances together, both literally and metaphorically. It’s a rich, life-changing journey that binds classmates together for life, one which is central to the Gould experience.