05.01.14

Dispatches from China: Beijing #2

Senior advisor, Beijing curriculum design, Avenues: The World School

It has been a nonstop month here in Beijing as work races ahead on all fronts. We’ve gotten plenty of practice as hosts, receiving recent visits from members of our leadership team, a delegation of government officials, prospective local families and even a grandparent of one of our students in New York, curious about where her granddaughter might someday spend a semester.

The Avenues curriculum specialists are greeted at RDFZ in Beijing

The Avenues curriculum specialists are greeted at RDFZ in Beijing

We also hosted two visits from curriculum specialists. First up was a visit from World Course leaders Todd Shy and Ryan Martin. Todd and Ryan spent a week on a scouting mission that began in Beijing and took them all the way to the Tibetan border. They are laying the groundwork for an exciting extension of the World Course from the classroom out into the field. Look for a coming announcement of their plans.

From left: Cem Inaltong, Nikki Solyom, Mike Levy and Mike Maccarone

From left: Cem Inaltong, Nikki Solyom, Mike Levy and Mike Maccarone

Next, we welcomed a math-science curriculum team that included leaders from all four divisions, Early Learning Center through Upper School*. This team spent a week visiting classes at our partner school, RDFZ, collaborating with the same Chinese colleagues who visited Avenues in New York a few months ago. We are building the relationships necessary to dig deeply into pedagogical and curricular questions. The goal is to take the best of progressive education and combine it with the strengths of the Chinese system. This is hard work—work that has never truly been undertaken in this way. Our Chinese colleagues view this as both cutting edge and long overdue. In fact, educators from across the country are paying attention. (One indication of how quickly word is spreading: Ty Tingley has been invited to present our early work at the Harvard Symposium on Education in China, along with one of China’s top ministers on education).

Sally Kent has no problem jumping into a science lab during a visit to RDFZ

Sally Kent has no problem jumping into a science lab during a visit to RDFZ

What happens when a school combines “the best of both east and west”? What will happen when we cross-pollinate the curiosity, passion and joie de vivre of an Avenues classroom with the fast pace, rigor and clearly benchmarked goals of the Chinese curriculum? Our partners at RDFZ are rightly proud of the extraordinary results they see in math, science and engineering. And they are excited to learn more about the World Course, immersion language and the hands-on progressive pedagogy we employ in New York. We have about two years to go from this excitement and exploration to the nuts and bolts of a fully living curriculum. We are well underway, with much work to do.

East meets West: Madame Wang, Sarah Bayne and the Avenues/RDFZ collaborators

East meets West: Madame Wang, Sarah Bayne and the Avenues/RDFZ collaborators

*Please note that beginning in the 2016–17 school year, Avenues moved from a four-division school structure with an Early Learning Center (N–Pre-K), Lower School, (K–4), Middle School (5–8) and Upper School (9–12) to a three-division structure with an Early Learning Center (N–K), Lower Division (1–5) and Upper Division (6–12). The Upper Division is further divided into two programs—the middle grades program (6–8) and the upper grades program (9–12).