A primary objective of mine while in Weining has been supporting a progressive local primary school in its effort to implement an environmental education curriculum which was developed by the International Crane Foundation specifically for the Caohai region. A few weeks ago, we were honored to be part of a ceremony recognizing the school’s partnership with ICF. After the ceremony, we organized a demonstration of the curriculum in practice.
The day started with a plaque presentation designating the Weining #4 Primary School as a US-China Environmental Education Project School. Naively, I thought it would be a rather low-key event. When the entire student body started lining up in front of a stage in the school’s central courtyard, I realized we were in for a more elaborate affair.
The ceremony started with the presentation of a traditional Communist red neck scarves to participating teachers, the nature reserve staff and us.
Next there were speeches. Unlike the last speech I had to make (a post on that coming soon), I was prepared this time and even had a Chinese translation that our translator, Cinderella, read to the students.
Afterwards, two adorable young girls, dressed as black-neck cranes, in white dresses and black tights and lipstick, handed the plaque to me, which I then presented to the school principal.
To end the ceremony, we all signed a banner which pledged to protect Caohai lake and the black neck crane.
After the ceremony, two classes participated in demonstrating a pair of lessons from the ICF curriculum. The first class demonstrated knowledge about the cranes, their habitat and tendencies. A group of a dozen girls performed a dance that mimicked crane posturing and behavior.
Next the students sang a song about the cranes, titled, “My dear black-neck crane.” It was truly inspiring.
Finally, the students played a game that taught the concept of overfishing. Each team circled around a basket of candy that represented the fish in Caohai Lake.
At the signal, they were allowed to take whatever ‘fish’ they wanted from the basket. In one group a feeding frenzy ensued and they grabbed every last treat. The other two groups were more restrained, with each student taking one or two each leaving at least a few ‘fish’ remaining in the basket.
The students then learned that the groups which left some “fish” behind to reproduce for next year were rewarded with a growing population, while the group that decimated their candy supply had nothing left for the future.
What was most striking to us as outsiders, was that after the concept of overfishing was explained to the students, all the candy was distributed to the two groups that had candy left in the basket. The group that had “over-fished” was left watching their classmates rip open and devour the additional candy. Students learned the hard way. I’ll never forget the dejected look on the face of one of the boys who ended up with no candy. I’m hopeful that his frustration will ensure he remembers the lesson.