The Ricci Experience: Chinese History Curriculum Abroad
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The Ricci Experience is a study abroad program that my colleague and I developed to take rising juniors and seniors at Loyola Blakefield to China for two weeks. The trip is focused on Chinese history, culture and religions. The program begins with a week of intensive study here at Loyola Blakefield and concludes with a two week trip in China based mostly in Beijing and in Shanghai. Students have class time nearly every day and are housed at the University for International Business and Economic in Beijing. We are partnered with the Beijing Center a Jesuit run institution for the study of China. We have run the program for two years and twenty-eight students have participated in it, with another sixteen excited to go this June.
The meat of the project itself is the Chinese history curriculum, but also the effectiveness of the instruction and program itself.
The research for this course is threefold.
First, was historical research and understanding of Chinese History. I did not have a background in Chinese history before creating this program and needed to develop content knowledge in Chinese History. There are few sources in English, designed for high school students in the study of Chinese history. Creating a course curriculum that was appropriate for students who had just finished their sophomore year in high school from academic sources was a challenge. Much of this work was developing essential questions and course objectives that matched the mission of the program and effectively translated to a survey of Chinese history.
Second, my research has been based in research on two subjects: Students engagement and high school study abroad programs. The program goal is to expand student knowledge of, and interest in, China. However, teaching American students about the history of a country many of them have not visited and have limited knowledge of, is a challenge. I have looked into student centered learning practices and more inquiry and project based learning in this course as a way to drive student engagement. This trip is unique in most high school study abroad programs both for its length, three week program and its academic nature. All students who participate earn a half credit in Chinese Religion and in Chinese History. Grades are recorded on their official transcripts and credits count towards graduation requirements. School credit and a new content knowledge are not the only goals. What we really want is to have students experience another, radically different culture form their own. We want this trip to open their eyes to the beauty of other cultures and hopefully build appreciation and respect for the other. Opportunities for study and career may develop by this spark in high school. I want the students who go on this trip to see the world clearer and with an open mind.
The third element to my research was the experiences of the students who have participated. Student surveys and course evaluations will be used to assess the program and curriculum.