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What is Microcampus?
Brad Latzke, former Middle School Principal, Shanghai American School
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.
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.Impact
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.Scalability
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.