It feels like Groundhog Day
It’s been more than two years since COVID-19’s emergence into the world, and people continue to feel its impact on current government policies, work, school lockdown, and overall lifestyle. Currently, countries are in opposition regarding what they consider to be the most effective approach to combating COVID-19 and achieving ‘normalcy’. Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway (Fiore, 2022), and more recently the UK (Cabinet Office, 2022), have opted for a ‘Living with COVID-19’ strategy, underlining the reality that the coronavirus is here to stay and that countries should open its borders and become accustomed to living with the virus.
However, countries like China continue to vehemently pursue a ‘Zero-COVID Strategy’ – an attempt to eradicate all traces of the coronavirus in the country (He, 2022). Unfortunately, one of the setbacks of this strategy is the inevitable lockdowns ensuing as new cases start to reappear.
Currently, China is experiencing a nationwide lockdown and its worst COVID-19 outbreak in two years (CNN’s Beijing Bureau, 2022). Major cities such as Shenzhen have been imposed with lockdowns, causing businesses to shut down temporarily and the re-emergence of online teaching due to school lockdown (He & Cheung, 2022). Shanghai is currently experiencing a wave of cases and is also on the verge of lockdown (White, 2022). Having endured an earlier lockdown, Suzhou residents anticipated returning to school and work this week. Still, they were disheartened to hear that their lockdown would be prolonged until the nationwide situation improved.
In 2022, lockdowns and restrictions remain a considerable inconvenience to our lives, and no industry has felt its impacts more so than the education industry. Since early 2020, WildChina Education has had to adapt to the situation and provide students with fresh, innovative, and accessible learning experiences that aren’t inconvenienced by international and nationwide travel restrictions, such as our full-scale interactive Virtual Learning Programs. This year, WildChina Education was planning its busiest season to date, but this unexpected outbreak has thrown a spanner in the works.
We are living in turbulent and temperamental times. These past two years have taught us to be vigilant and have contingency plans in place if such situations re-emerge and trigger a change of course. WildChina Education is committed to providing students with the most valuable and immersive educational experience while following all COVID-19 prevention policies and rules. When cross-province travel is complicated, we prioritize Plan A – in province experiential learning programs for residents. If the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to exacerbate, we proceed accordingly and launch Plan B – in city day programs, and finally Plan C – on-campus experiential learning programs.
The Importance of Outdoor Education for Children
The ramifications of COVID-19 and its prevention policies have been difficult to acclimatize to for everyone involved. Teachers have struggled to adjust to these measures, navigate online technology, and engage 20-30 students remotely. Parents have had to take on an additional role as substitute teacher, ensuring that their child sticks to their school timetable and closely monitor their learning. But not enough attention has been focussed on the detrimental long-term ramifications of school lockdown policies towards our children.
Humans are intrinsically social creatures. Socializing with others and learning how to navigate the outside world plays a pivotal role in our development during adolescence. It is not in our students’ best interests, and mental and physical health to have them sitting in front of a computer screen all day. Lockdown policies are withdrawing a fundamental aspect of our students’ lives – the ability to socialize and interact face-to-face with students and teachers. Therefore, it is unimaginable to conceive how our current youth will cope with their new reality in the present and future. More and more studies reveal the impacts of COVID-19 lockdown policies on the increase of anxiety and depression levels amongst students worldwide (Radwan, Radwan, Radwan & Pandey, 2021).
During times of school lockdown where students are forced to stay at home, it has become even more critical to provide students with outdoor experiential learning to break the cycle of mundanity as soon as possible. Given past track records of lockdowns, we estimate that this current outbreak will require at least a month until cities start loosening restrictions and letting businesses resume back to normal.
However, the sheer thought of experiencing another looming school lockdown has made schools and parents more tentative and anxious about allowing children to participate in residential or even off-campus learning programs. Experiential learning programs are essential to heightening students’ emotional development and critical thinking skills, amongst other benefits (Wolf, 2018). That is why WildChina Education is taking experiential learning directly to schools with our on-campus experiential learning programs. So, what can students expect from our programs?
What we offer
We are committed to providing students with a holistic outdoor learning experience that covers every significant facet of life required to become fully adept and valuable members of society. Our on-campus experiential learning programs teach students essential topics, from culture to sustainability and survival, by assigning creative tasks. Here’s a brief overview of some of our tried and tested programs.
Cross-cultural exchange is vital to foster a world without barriers and discrimination. Our experiential learning programs that focus on culture encourage students to empathize with others. We do this by introducing students to the diversity of China’s ethnic groups. Students can expect to be joined by members of a local ethnic community and learn about their language, history, and traditions through face-to-face interactions. Our programs are an opportunity to get students to learn traditional dances, play musical instruments, and try on traditional garments so that students can fully immerse themselves within a different culture.
We also provide educational, cultural programs that give students an in-depth course into some of the most iconic and recognizable traditions associated with China, ranging from indoor dragon boat racing to lantern decorating and kite making.
While we prefer to take students right into the trenches of China’s most scenic environments and landscapes to hone their survival skills in the most authentic way, our on-campus experiential learning programs have been designed to thoroughly teach students these fundamental skills within the confines of a school setting. Students can expect to learn and interact with the procedures involved in fire making, hunting & trapping skills, and water filtration under safe and closely observed teaching conditions.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has taught us the importance of sustainability and preserving our world’s resources. Our educational on-campus experiential learning programs involve students participating in activities that emphasize the preservation and recycling of materials, such as tasking them in designing and creating their clothing range to be presented in a fashion show using 100% sustainably sourced materials.
Zombie Day is a fun and immersive experiential learning program designed by WildChina Education, with a premise that forces students to apply and consolidate their teamwork and problem-solving skills. During the Zombie Day program, students work together in groups and are placed in pressure situations to adapt and thrive. Just like the movies, students must learn how to search for uncontaminated food sources and water supplies; compete against opposing teams to gain the most survival materials, and strategize a plan to neutralize the zombie population. This game helps students think laterally and galvanize them to achieve a common goal in unprecedented situations that are transferable to their academic careers and beyond.
We understand that the current COVID-19 outbreak in China and its effects on imposing another school lockdown is problematic beyond a level that people have not seriously considered. For the sake of mental wellbeing and social development, it is paramount that our children and future generations receive an uninhibited education in which they can interact and experience the outside world. WildChina Education’s on campus experiential learning programs is one of our many efforts to help students navigate this current issue, and we will continue to give students the best outdoor learning experience as physically possible.
Cabinet Office. (2022, February 23). COVID-19 Response: Living with COVID-19. GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-living-with-covid-19
CNN’s Beijing Bureau. (2022). China’s Covid-19 cases continues to rise in the worst outbreak since Wuhan. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/14/china/china-covid-outbreak-monday-intl-hnk/index.html
Fiore, K. (2022). How Did Scandinavians Get Their Pre-Pandemic Lives Back? MedPage Today. https://www.medpagetoday.com/special-reports/exclusives/94965
He, L. CNN Business. (2022). China is risking a big hit to the economy and supply chains with zero-Omicron approach. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/01/15/business/china-economy-challenges-zero-covid-omicron-intl-hnk/index.html
He, L. & Cheung, E. CNN Business. (2022). Shenzhen lockdown: Foxconn halts operations as Covid hits tech hub. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2022/03/14/tech/shenzhen-lockdown-foxconn-operations-intl-hnk/index.html
Radwan, E., Radwan, A., Radwan, W., & Pandey, D. (2021). Prevalence of depression, anxiety and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic: a cross-sectional study among Palestinian students (10–18 years). BMC Psychology, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-021-00688-2
White, E. (2022). Shanghai teeters on the brink of Covid lockdown. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/659a5337-681b-4ef2-a9ac-db9aaaa78cef
Wolf, L. W. (2018). Undergraduate Research as Engaged Student Learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2018(154), 75–85. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.20293