Geckos Go For It
What do Harvard, Columbia and Oberlin have in common? SIS's own Anna Duan, of course. An SIS Gecko since grade 6, Anna has spent the last two summer vacations attending summer school at top universities. Not one to rest on her laurels, Anna took on Columbia and Oberlin this summer after having attended summer school at Harvard last year.
This summer she took two very different courses. At Columbia, Anna participated in a sustainable urban planning course, confirming her desire to go into this field as a career. Over three weeks, in this studio-based course, Anna and her team of fellow high school students took on the challenge of creating a design aimed at revitalizing an area of Harlem. The course simulated a client-firm situation with local development organization, the 125th Street Business Improvement District, and the class first visited their office to understand their needs. "We wanted to create a place and not just a space," explained Anna. "In Harlem there is urban decay, a lack of infrastructure and little money. We saw an opportunity to build a public gathering area in a space underneath a bridge which is currently only used by homeless people."
Anna and her team were inspired by man-on-the-street interviews that they conducted. Knowing that music and dance are integral to the Harlem culture, they were surprised that the Harlemites they spoke to wished that future efforts focus not on Harlem's past, but its future, specifically by inspiring local children. They designed a "plaza" that pays homage to Harlem's old-time traditions of music and dance, with a greater emphasis on education, community unity, and local engagement, featuring concepts such as interactive coding booths and sustainable vegetation displays for children to engage with.
The team's design and rationale were presented to a group of professionals, including local officials, professors, and the 125th Street Business Improvement District. "Even though this was just a studio class, our team wanted to create something that may be considered in the future. We received positive feedback and were really happy with the outcome."
After Columbia, Anna joined Pioneer Academics which allows high school students to participate in undergraduate research through Oberlin University. Anna contributed to research in science technology and society and specifically transhumanism. Not a household word, transhumanism is the enhancement of human intellect and physiology through the use of technology.
Her research mentor, a Liberal Studies professor at NYU, assigned core texts for the class to read. Each student then chose their individual research focus. Anna decided to address the overarching frameworks of existing discourse on the topic. "I did this because many theorists exclude people from the dialog.
Some claim that AI will replace humanity by 2030, and defend that by saying that this type of progress is exponential and thus incomprehensible to humans who can only think in linear terms," said Anna.
"This was such a great learning experience. I had 5 video meetings with the professor which helped me to frame my paper but still required a lot of thought and work on my part. I felt like I had a really strong foundation in critical thinking and writing from SIS."
Anna just submitted her paper and is now on to finishing up her senior year and of course pondering which universities to apply to.
Grade 11 student, Anna Duan who has been at SIS since grade 6, attended summer school at Harvard University in Boston. She said the experience has helped to shape her future career path while at the same time made her realistic. Her summer school classes helped her realize that she needs to think more about how she studies. Anna took two challenging courses at Harvard, Boston Architecture and Sustainable Product Design. Both courses are part of the Harvard curriculum but also open to summer school students. In her class of around 30 students, graduate, undergraduate and high school summer school attendees all were held to the same high standards.
As part of the IB diploma program at SIS, students must complete the requirements for "CAS" or Creativity, Activity, and Service. CAS makes up part of the IB Core along with Theory of Knowledge and Extended Essay, and it is a vital part of the IB's holistic approach to education. Picking up where our service learning program leaves off, CAS students undertake long-term projects of their own choosing and design, while considering the creative, active, and service approaches they can use. Many of these "passion projects" have a real impact on our SIS community. Senior Virginia Li has turned her passion for film-making into "SIS Snaps," a series of video interviews with teachers and students that seek to tell their stories in a unique way, bringing our community closer together. Check it out!
Virginia Li, grade 11, also attended Harvard summer school. Virginia has been an SIS Gecko since pre-school. Though she left for a few years at the end of elementary school, Virginia returned for high school in grade 9. Virginia joined Harvard's media department taking Advanced Screenwriting and Directing. Virginia wrote and directed two films and 3 theatre pieces over the 7 week course. She even had the opportunity to direct professional actors and other course members. "It was intimidating at first but the other people in the class were so supportive and caring that I felt comfortable. It was a really cool experience that helped me find my passion." Prior to attending Harvard, Virginia had her heart set on studying art or design.
"I had brilliant professors that were very accomplished. One even has a film called Liv that is about to premier. There was a lot of self-discipline required but I found what I wanted to do with my future so it didn't seem like a lot of work. It was really an amazing adventure."
Virginia received an A- in both her classes and said SIS prepared her for the experience with the work ethic needed at SIS and the stress management techniques she learned. Virginia is even considering using her new found passion and skills for CAS which is a requirement in the IB program by making an SIS school video.
Karla Escobedo & Awani Cuddon
Karla Escobedo, grade 11, and Awani Cuddon, grade 10, hit the volleyball nets at University of Southern California's Volleyball Camp this summer. Though both girls deny being good at the sport, both have a passion for volleyball and wanted to improve their game. "We love volleyball and a former SIS alum recommended this program," explained Awani. Awani convinced her fellow SIS teammate, Karla, to join her for the summer and though they both had days where they could not walk, they had an incredible experience.
Karla and Awani met Samantha Bricio and for those in the volleyball world this is a big deal. Samantha, a former Trojan herself, was the youngest player to play for the Mexico national team in its history. Following in Samantha's footsteps, both girls would like to play at the university level. Though they both feel they are not up to scholarship level, they have a true love of the sport. In fact, Karla is considering starting a Shenzhen women's volleyball league as her service project for CAS in the IB program so that she and others can play year round and in the meantime she will keep her skills honed by coaching the boys middle school volleyball team.
Practicing 8 hours a day with actual USC team players as coaches left the girls exhausted but they still had time to make friends with the other girls in the camp and even call home everyday! Though the camp was competitive, they both learned the importance of persevering and not giving up. "We did a lot of jumping drills and even though I am short, I learned I can reach the net," Karla said. "We definitely improved our volleyball skills. Everyone has room for improvement," Awani emphasised.
Using a speech that she wrote for her grade 10 forensics class, Avivi Wang added a video and applied to Stanford's summer school program which only has an 8% acceptance rate. This was the second time that Avivi attended Stanford's summer school program and was excited to take Applied Visual Arts and Design, a new course that Stanford added this past summer. A Shekou International School Gecko since grade 4, Avivi has always been interested in art and design and was excited to take this course after having taken art history at Stanford the year before. Though the application procedure and course were rigorous, Avivi felt well prepared. "We had so much writing in my humanities and forensics courses and of course we were taught to revise and then revise again that I felt prepared for summer school."
Spending a summer at Columbia University in New York has helped Coco Lau, grade 11, shape her future. After taking a three week course in marketing called Communicating with Consumers - Introduction to Marketing and Advertising, Coco has set her sights on a career in Marketing. Though she was new to marketing and had no prior courses or experience in marketing, the field trips that were a integral part of the course helped Coco see the different phases of marketing. "We went on a photo shoot for the brand Hickey Freeman and they were shooting an ad. It was great because we got a taste of what happens during a photo shoot. After the shoot we were invited by one of the PR reps to come back to the studio and learn more about PR and advertising."
Grade 11 student Lisa Peng is considering Oxford University in England once she graduates from Shekou International School. What better way to learn more about a university before applying than spending two weeks taking a summer school course. That is exactly what Lisa Peng did and in the process she sharpened her writing skills. Lisa took a creative writing course from a published author and over the two week course submitted a short story and a poem that her professor critiqued.
Lisa's experience at Oxford helped her understand the benefits of an international school education. " I met other students from the UK, US, India, Denmark and Norway. For them it was a new and sometimes overwhelming experience but because I attend an international school I was able to enjoy the diversity and in an international school you get used to making new friends frequently. I was able to really enjoy the experience."
"The English classes at SIS prepared me so I did not feel nervous in handing in my work to a college professor," explained Lisa. "The course was academic but we also went on field trips and had time to explore Oxford." While Lisa can see a future career in writing she is looking toward journalism or possibly editing.
Andrew Ahn & Francesca Tinga
Chances are you've heard about a little student organization in SIS called TASSEL. We've been a staple at events such as the Winter Bazaar and Fashion Show, but have you ever wanted to know more?
Andrew Ahn and I are the heads of the SIS chapter of TASSEL and assisting us in leading TASSEL this year is junior, Sydney Sears. TASSEL, which stands for Teaching and Sharing Skills to Enrich Lives, is an organization that provides English education to children in Cambodia over VSEE, a video-calling service. This organization was initially started by a man named Joji Tatsugi and has spread to other countries, including Japan, Korea, the United States and thanks to us, China. In the summer of 2015, Andrew and I both showed interest in starting a TASSEL chapter in our school after hearing about it from other international schools. We started with 12 members in the beginning of 2015, and we are continuing to grow every year.
When the teaching season starts in December, our chapter teaches every school day, with a pair of students teaching in different time slots. These classes last approximately 40-50 minutes and we teach the children phonetics through powerpoints and different games. Using the powerpoints, we read sentences and the students repeat after us. We also have a bank of games that we play which the students love. These vary from speaking games to listening games. We are lucky enough to be supplied powerpoints by Joji that we use to teach the kids, but we, as teachers, normally meet beforehand to reflect on how the previous class went and adjust our teaching from there. One of the most important parts of teaching is filling in our teaching log, which allows us to reflect on classes and learn from other pairs who taught the same class.
Starting this year, TASSEL is also expanding to provide writing tutors to the children in Cambodia. Some of our members will be assigned to read and correct some of the Cambodian children and even the Cambodian teacher assistants' work!
Apart from teaching, one of our main goals as a chapter is to fundraise for the Cambodian kids and the teacher assistants in the village. The money we raise is used to provide the kids with their basic necessities (food, water, medicine) and to provide salaries for the Cambodian teacher assistants who assist us by translating in the teaching village. Last year, we raised funds multiple ways. We had a booth during Winter Bazaar and with STUCO's help, did a few bake sales during the school year. The money from the fashion show also went to TASSEL last year. This raised us a total of 10,500 RMB!
We will be partaking in the Winter Bazaar and have managed to get the sponsorship of the Fashion Show again this year. We are hoping to continue to grow and spread TASSEL's message throughout the school and hopefully get the community more involved in helping us improve the Cambodian children's lives. We can't wait to see what we accomplish as a group this year and how we'll impact the lives of our future students!