Updated 6 years 7 months ago

The focus of our service learning project is to find an active elder in the XiZhou community and learn about their life and their life stories. We will produce a short video and an article at the end of our time here to report our findings from the interviews and conversations. We have a few ideas in mind for our service learning project, but we have not decided which elder we will be working with. This is the page that we will be keeping all of our research, information, and interview findings. 

I think that there are many characteristics that would make for a good service learning project. Of course, the person has to be at least 65 years old. We want people who have knowledge about the village and the history of XiZhou. We will be trying to look for someone that is kind and is willing to share their wisdom with us. Mr. Tafel has told us that usually if you have 12 elders in mind, maybe only 1 or 2 of them will be willing to be video taped, interviewed, researched, etc. We are also looking for someone that open to sharing life stories, positive or negative. Of course, it may be hard to find all of these characteristics in one person, but any of them will make for an interesting and thought provoking experience. 

Ideas for service learning partners:

Mr. Yang our neighbor

Ms. Zhao the shoemaker

Mr. Yang the casket maker

Mr. Zhao

Mrs. Zhao 

Today, we went to Ms. Zhao the shoe maker, and we talked to her for a while. In he end, she said that she didn't know a lot about the past, so she didn't want to be our service learing partner. After that, we went back to Mr. Yang's house, and he agreed to be our service learning partner! We have already talked to him several times, and he is always so happy when we visit. 

This is the information that we have learned about Mr. Yang:

  • He considers XiZhou his home, although he has had many other jobs elsewhere.
  • He is retired now, but his most recent job was a chemistry teacher at a middle school.
  • He reads whatever is available in the village. He reads many Chinese Classics, but also anything else he can find. If you find a book here in XiZhou, he has most likely read it.
  • He has a great collection of antiques that he keeps in a room in his house. He does not allow anyone to enter his room, because it is very special to him.
  • He has four children, four grandchildren, and he is expecting great grandchildren.
  • Most of his antiques are from XiZhou.
  • He is very interested in tourists that come here, and their stories.
  • He has a huge collection of pictures from his past, of him with tourists, of his favorite moments, etc.
  • He carries one pile that is about 1 inch high in his jacket pocket at all times.
  • He has another pile about 3 inches high at his house.
  • His favorite picture is one of him with a friend of his who is a painter.
  • Mr. Yang has a painting in his home that his friend made for him.
  • His children bought him a camera and he carries, and uses it frequently.
  • He also showed us a helmet that is very meaningful to him. When Brittain attacked China, the Brits wore a leather helmet. He still has one that he found, today.


Because of this experience, I learned so much about Mr. Yang. Without this project, I never would have asked him so much about his past. I interviewed him for inquiry too, but without service learing I never would have asked about the wisdom he had for us to live a long happy life. I never would have asked about his biggest regrets, and his most proud moments in life. This project has given me so many opportunities to ask questions that I never would have asked otherwise. I learned so much about Mr. Yang's life, and the historical events that he was alive for. 

I learned a lot about XiZhou's history throughout the process of interviewing, too. I learned about the Flying Tigers mostly because I did not know much about them. He told us about what it was like when the Flying Tigers came, and he knew a lot about it because he experienced it. He was here when the Flying Tigers came, which made it a lot more personal. He also told us about what life was like when he was little. 

I learned about the 20th century from our interviews with Mr. Yang. I learned that a group of Americans called the Flying Tigers came here to help fight the Japanese. I got to hear about what Mr. Yang remembers from this experience. 

I loved sharing our service learning project with Mr. Yang. One person in our group went to pick him up from his house, and he sat down with us in the courtyard. He knew all of the other elders that came too. We chatted with him, as well as the other elders. He got the chance to catch up with Mr. Tafel, Ms. Mai, the other Mr. Yang, the Linden family, and a few others. I think that he really enjoyed being in the courtyard with everybody because he does not get out much. 

The Yang Zhuo Ran staff set up all the chairs in classroom 1 in audience formation. We brought our service learning partners up and they all sat down in the front. Mr. Tafel was giving his welcoming speech when Mr. Yang stands up in front of everybody and takes pictures. It was so funny and everyone thought so too. He did this a few more times throughout the presentation. 

I watched Mr. Yang while our presentation was playing. I think that he really enjoyed it. He laughed at the funny things he said, and smiled at the nice things he said. I think that he was really touched that we spent this much time to get to know him. He was smiling the whole time he watched our video. We put in a part of him singing, and I am pretty sure that I saw him mouthing the words along with the video. He really enjoyed the presentation, and I think it was a great way to end the project, and our time here.

If I were to give a recommendation to future microcampus groups, it would be to start getting contacts before you need to. You will say, it's ok, I know some people, I'll just get their contact information later, but really you won't unless you take time to. Also, make sure that you get pictures as well as video so that you have them in the long run. Try to get the video and written piece done as early as possible so that you are not rushing, and you have lots of time to make sure that everything is perfect. 


My name is Kate, and I am 13 years old. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia. I have lived in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Microcampus was the best experience of my life. This trip has given me the opportunity to learn about the village and the people who live here. I have learned so much about the culture, and the history throughout my time here. I am going to miss watching the birds fly in the cloudless blue sky, and breathing the fresh air. This was such an amazing experience and I will cherish it forever.