The annual school residentials are one of the highlights of being a student at most international and bilingual nternational and bilingual Schools in China . These weeks away to far-flung destination give students the opportunity to participate in service learning, explore the great outdoors, take a break from the academic hamster wheel, and spend time bonding with their friends.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 seems to have taken this away from the Fall semester for most (but not all) schools. Cross-province travel comes at the risk of having to undergo ‘self-observation’ or quarantining and so this semester, schools have to look closer to home.
But staying closer to home doesn’t mean you have to miss out on achieving your learning objectives for a trip. Here are our top recommendations for where your school can run LOTC programs, CAS, International Award trips, and residentials by province in China.
Scroll all the way down for the :TLDR for those of you who are looking for a quick list!
Being one of the world’s largest municipal areas, Beijing is one area where students can do so many activities without ever leaving city limits. There are options aplenty for outdoor education, STEM based field trips, history and culture, as well as sustainability. School administrators and directors of sustainability might however want to note that service learning will likely be based around sustainability theory or environmental service over community-based service. Here are two sample programs that we facilitate:
Located 2 hours from the city center, Xiangshuihu is an area where we’ve loved facilitating trips. They can accommodate hundreds of students and campsites and facilities pass all our thorough risk assessments and audits. Activities we’ve facilitated here range from traditional Chinese Medicine workshops to rock climbing, hiking, and mini-dam construction challenges. And yes, the photo above shows a full-blown Master Chef Challenge for 100 students.
Yes – the photo above shows a full blown Master Chef Challenge for 100 students.
Also located just 2 hours from Beijing’s city center we use our Yanqing sites to provide wilderness survival and sustainability focused programs. It’s also conveniently located close to a body of water where we run dragon boating competitions every semester. Some program highlights include biking, hiking, camping, creating composting systems for local communities, an eco-farm experience, and orienteering.
There is a lot to do besides a weekend trip to Disneyland. Although residents of Shanghai absolutely love to get out of the city (most popularly to destinations like Moganshan) there are also options for exciting outdoor adventures within the Shanghai municipality.
Dianshan Lake is a great destination for schools looking for a CAS program. The activities we facilitate here are equal parts creativity, action, and service. If you visit the infamous cricket market in Shanghai, you can find many songbirds for sale. The Dianshan Lake area is actually where many of these are poached. We work with the local communities to find and dismantle the illegal poaching nets used to trap these birds. There is a host of fun outdoor and creative activities available in the area as well such as kayaking, camping, shelter building, and nature scavenger hunts.
Our recommended activities at Hengsha Island veer more towards agricultural activities. This is where a lot of the local fruits and vegetables are farmed for Shanghai city. Perfect for primary to middle schoolers we expand on a ‘Farm to Table’ theme. Students care for their own little plot of land for a few days, harvest their own produce, and cook their own meals. We learn about sustainable agriculture, food distribution systems, and learn what “organic” means along the way. Biking and camping are also available as outdoor activities.
Our favorite program in Guangdong is by far the robotics program we run for middle schools and high schools in Shenzhen. From PCB prototyping, to coding, to soldering and laser cutting workshops, our students always walk away inspired by just how hands-on science can be.
Our favorite site in Zhejiang is surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, not Moganshan. And trust us, if you think the jewel of Zhejiang is Moganshan, my response would be that the marketing reach of the giant corporations who’ve invested, developed, and built their resorts there is strong and sweeping. Our favorite programs are actually set amongst the Tianmu Mountains. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site with vast swaths of coniferous forests. Here, we run wilderness survival themed activities such as plant identification, orienteering, shelter building, raft building, first aid, and an epic ten kilometer x 800m elevation hardship hike.
If your school is in Shaanxi, I’m sure there’s already been at least one or two field trips to the Terracotta Warriors. About 90 minutes outside of Xian is Hu County. This is our preferred location for our primary residentials. We’ve got the perfect site for camping, a farm-to-table experience, and lots of arts and crafts based on traditional Chinese techniques.
Yes, we have many programs based around pandas including a very exclusive natural habitat hike. If your school has never run a program that involves the giant panda, please do get in touch. However, our preferred site is on the Tibetan plateaus of Sichuan where we can volunteer with a wild boar farmer, build chicken coops for local migrant schools and orphanages, shuck corn, re-lay roads through isolated villages, work on clearing out firebreaks in forests, and learn to make your own dye the traditional Tibetan way. Our Minya Konka International Award trip also makes an excellent Silver or Gold expedition.
You might not have heard about a place called Yixing, but it’s one of the best places for a school to run a residential. It’s about 2.5 hours away from Nanjing and, as you would say in Chinese, 有山有水, “there are mountains and there is water.” The city of Yixing itself is a quirky little place that is famous for… teapots. But unbeknownst to all the tourist buses that come cruising through for the teapots steeped in history, there are beautiful lakes where you can kayak, grasslands and forests where you can camp, and an amazing Buddhist temple where we can assist in maintaining their local library.
The city of Yixing itself is a quirky little place that is famous for… Teapots.
If you are a school based in Xiamen, our recommendation is to participate in a mangrove conservation project at Eyuyu Island or somewhere close by. Fujian province is actually one of the few places in China where your students can experience hands-on education about these crucial shoreline ecosystems. From working at mangrove nurseries and measuring human impact on the coasts to examining the biodiversity of these mangrove jungles, there’s a lot to do and programs here can be customized to a very wide age range.
In summary – Schools in China: Running Residentials Closer to Home
- Beijing: Xiangshui Lake & Yanqing
- Shanghai: Dianshan Lake & Hengsha Island
- Zhejiang: Tianmu Mountain
- Jiangsu: Yixing
- Sichuan: Tibetan Plateaus (Danba) & Minya Konka
- Fujian: Eyuyu Island
- Shaanxi: Hu County