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Want students to see a village as their classroom?

A fully immersive travel programme to connect young people growing up as expatriates in Shanghai with the local, rural community

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

Web presence






September 2017
I see Microcampus as a positive shift to show that learning is not the same as schooling.

About the innovation

What is Microcampus?

Children benefit from time away from the introspective 'bubble' of school campus life. This is particularly the case for students living in very rural areas or international schools, as they may feel distanced from the ‘real world’. To live and work as adults in an increasingly globalised world, young people need an opportunity to explore the world around them, experience other cultures and meet people from diverse backgrounds.

Adolescence is a time of rapid social, emotional and personal growth as young people explore their place in the world. Travel away from home and engagement in purposeful projects give young people the chance to push beyond their usual boundaries and challenge their understanding of themselves and others.

The Shanghai American School began the Microcampus project in 2012 to help students growing up in an expatriate ‘bubble’ see a different side of their host country. Students have the opportunity to embark on a month-long trip to Xizhou, a village in Southwest China that the school has partnered with. For many students, this is the first time they have spent any significant time away from home. The programme focuses on experiential learning, personal growth and intercultural understanding, with the aim of having a positive impact on places and people.

On the trip, students complete two main projects. The first is an inquiry-based project, within which students investigate a topic of their choice that relates to the host region. The second is called Service Learning, which involves students capturing oral histories from elderly citizens in a short film project. Both projects require students to interact with local residents and therefore they are provided with an opportunity for intercultural dialogue and a chance to understand the experiences of others.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


Students discover for themselves what they can do. Sometimes this means taking a step back from their usual routines in order to make true discoveries. Microcampus places students in an environment where change can happen.


Following the trip there has been evidence of students and parents reporting personal growth, broader understanding of themselves & the world as well as a notable sense of responsibility emerging in those who undertake the experience.


This programme has been running successfully for 5 years, with over 250 students attending it to date. Whilst the project has its own unique link to a certain village in China, the concept itself can be applied to any school's own context. The website to track the experience is also viewed & explored by hundreds around the world.

Implementation steps

Set defining principles
Create a sense of understanding among the students about what the trip (or trips if the programme continues!) will involve.

Define a set of guiding principles to serve as a filter through which all decisions are made. This process creates a clear sense of what the trip and projects are about. Understand why the students will benefit from the trip, what the goals are and what the students will hopefully gain from the time away.

Plan the programme
After understanding the core mission of the trips, plan the practical details.

Research the best location that can support the overal goals of the trip. It is important to understand when and for how long the trips will take place. Filling out a rough monthly itinerary and then daily schedules helps provide a better sense of the overall goals of each trip and how they will be achieved.

Involve the wider school community
Seek specific input from all potential stakeholders about the emerging vision of the programme.

Students, parents and teachers can help identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges of the programme.

Identify partners
Reach out to potential host communities to partner with.

Approaching potential partners for the programme is essential. As students and teachers will be a part of the community for a month, it is important to forge a strong relationship. Make sure that the goals and vision of the programme are clear and that partner communities understand and agree with them. Also allow for input from these communities as they can help the programme become even better.

Start the process
Make concrete plans and being recruiting!

Select the community and site for student. Perform a safety audit, design more specific daily schedules and the overall plan for the month. Then begin the process of finding people who should participate in the adventure! Make sure that the students' goals align with those of the trip. A group of 10-16 students will typically take part in each trip. 

It's go time!
Students enjoy the trip as they undertake two community-based projects.

Students participate in two main projects over the course of the month. The first project is inquiry-based. Students investigate a topic of their choice that relates to the host community. For example, students have looked at local production and marketing of textiles, small-business case studies and investigations into fishing industries. 

The second project is called Service Learning. Students capture oral histories from local residents in a short film that is shared with the public. Students partner with elderly citizens to explore big ideas such as the joy of living, life lessons and personal experiences. 

The projects foster intergenerational and intercultural respect. Students gain a deeper understanding of themselves and society.

Reflection, improvement and refinement make the process better for future students.

Take time to reflect with teachers and students once they return from their trip. Understanding their experiences will make setting goals and planning trips easier and better for future participants.

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