Middle School Updates: Travel Program, New Hires

Mike Levy, Founding Head of the PKS middle school, recently traveled to China and sent us these updates.

Our 5th graders will start their  travels in the Yellow Mountains. This is the view from the window of the hostel we will stay in.

Our 5th graders will start their  travels in the Yellow Mountains. This is the view from the window of the hostel we will stay in.

Greeting from China! I’ve been here investigating sites and partnerships for the 5th and 6th grade trips, and even working on some plans for 7th and 8th grade, all under the auspices of a program we are calling PKS东南西北 (North, South, East, and West).

We envision the following sequence of travel experiences, each lasting approximately 10 days:

  • 5th Grade = Huangshan (South)
  • 6th Grade =  Yunnan (West)
  • 7th Grade =  Tokyo/ Korea (East)
  • 8th Grade =  Beijing (North)

One of the things that we hope will make our graduates distinct is their confidence and competence as world travellers. If you drop a PKS grad off on any street corner--or any mountain path--in the world we want them to be prepared to navigate with aplomb and to do so with curiosity, grace, and the sense of humor one often needs when confronted with a new situation.

We also, of course, want extended periods of immersion in Chinese language and culture, and we will design each travel program to extend the already existing Units of Exploration.

Students will keep a scrapbook documenting their travels and the projects they complete while abroad.The scrapbook will stay with them from 5thg grade until graduation and, we hope, be something they keep for the rest of their lives. They will fill it with observations, poems, sketches, photos, and reflections on their journeys. We will have more updates on the plans for PKS Travels: 西东北南. Stay tuned!

I also have exciting news to report: we have hired our science and humanities teachers for 6th grade!  

We received over 100 resumes from educators all over the world, drawn to a middle school working to combine Chinese immersion, progressive values, up-to-date research on teaching and learning...all to help students develop a global mindset and a 21st century skill set. I’m very honored to introduce you to Qiuyan and Ophelia. Both will move to the Bay Area in late June and join me for a summer of training before we welcome our inaugural class. I can’t wait for everyone to meet them!

Qiuyan with some of her favorite students

Qiuyan with some of her favorite students

Qiuyan will teach science during our project block. After graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering from one of China’s top universities, she joined Teach for China and went to teach mathematics to middle schoolers in a rural village. Her students were among the poorest in China. “I was lucky enough to go from my hometown in Inner Mongolia to China’s bigger cities,” Qiuyan told me. “Not all Chinese kids are so lucky. I will always work to help make the world a better, more just, more equal place, and my two years teaching in rural China was one way I’ve tried to do this.” After teaching in the village, Qiuyan went to work for one of Hong Kong’s finest prep schools, CIS, and helped lead their program in Hangzhou. She was part of their experiential education program.

Qiuyan is currently living in Kuala Lumpur where she works in a science and technology museum, designing exhibits so they will appeal to middle school students, and leading student groups through hands-on activities when they visit the museum. “I’m honored to be joining the PKS community, and can’t wait to meet all the kids! I want to bring to them my passion for science and my commitment to bringing work from the classroom into the world.”

Ophelia and her bilingual dog, Coco

Ophelia and her bilingual dog, Coco

Ophelia will be the Humanities teacher in our project block. She is a Shanghai native who went to the High School of Fudan University. After graduation she moved to California to attend Pomona College, and she received her M.A. at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. Since then, Ophelia has been teaching middle school and high school humanities in Beijing.

“I am so excited to return to California to join the PKS community,” Ophelia wrote to me recently. “I can’t wait to work with students who are truly global citizens in the making. In 6th grade, maybe they compare Greg Heffley [from Diary of a Wimpy Kid] 吗小跳 [from 淘气包吗小跳]. I love both books, and reading them with 5th and 6th graders is a lot of fun. By 8th grade, they are ready to compare the cultural assumptions behind Google and 百度. There is no school in the world with the PKS vision, and I’m so happy to be joining the team.”