Life at the Microcampus
One of the first questions that students have when they hear about the Microcampus program is:
What do students do at the Microcampus?
Every aspect of the student experience at the Microcampus program was designed with four primary goals in mind:
- experiential learning in which students engage in meaningful activities that require them to depend on themselves, their peers, chaperones, and outside experts in order to solve problems they encounter;
- personal growth that results from adventure and challenges, broadening boundaries and comfort zones through reasonable risk-taking, problem solving, and thoughtful choices;
- expanding intercultural understanding as students interact with members of local communities and their surroundings; and
- having a positive impact on the places students visit and the people who live there through shared experience, responsible actions, and environmental awareness.
With these goals serving as our guide, there really is no such thing as a "typical" day at Microcampus. The program is designed to put a great deal of responsibility for making decisions about the day in the hands of the students. Some days will include full-group outings to nearby villages. Mealtimes are generally set in advance in order to help the kitchen staff prepare our "in-house" meals. Every day there is a student-led 30-minute planning meeting, during which students and chaperones review the calendar, prepare for upcoming events, share news updates, and touch base about project work. Later in the day, as needed, some classes (math, in particular) will meet for direct instruction.
Beyond that, the schedule is wide open for students to put their plans into action. At any given time, you might find three Microcampus students heading off to a nearby village to do first-hand research related to their Inquiry Projects. Another two groups of students might be interviewing local elders from the village as a part of their Service Learning work. Two or three students might be off riding their bicycles as a part of their wellness plan, while another is adding information she found from a local interview to her online Inquiry Project workspace. A boy might be hanging up his laundry to dry in the Xizhou sun as another student practices his violin. Two other students might be having a Skype conversation with their math teacher back in Shanghai, and another might be doing a weekly check-in with the SAS school nurse back in Shanghai.
Clearly, this is a dynamic process, and one that requires individual participants to be self-directed, eager to learn, and up to the task of being trusted to do the right thing as they take center stage in the learning journey.