Phase 1: Posing Real Questions

Updated 1 year 2 months ago

Before we began our adventrure I already knew  that the children in Xizhou do not go to modern day kindergartens and elementary schools like we did, based on pictures and the information we have received so far. I already know about growing up without all the “modern” tools since I went to an outdoor kindergarten, where the main focus was on nature and being outside. I can relate to the children and the way that they grow up.

  The children of Xizhou most likely have a very different aspect of “play” than the modern day child does. Even though they live in our century, the way that they play is very different from what children do here. Kids in Shanghai and other bigger cities tend to spend excessive amounts of time playing on their parents’ or even their own iPads, iPods, Gameboys and phones, and sitting inside. The children living in Xizhou  spend more time outside, using rocks, sand, plants, sticks and some toys to amuse themselves. I also know that they put themselves into a character and play in their own story with their friends. They play more “naturally”, and use what they have around them as entertainment. I also know that there is a balance between modern and ancient games. Since a lot of the elders in the village still play ancient games, I can assume that this influences the children to do the same.


There is so much that I want to learn about this topic, but my main point of interest is the aspect of play in the village. I want to know exactly what the kids do to entertain themselves and keep themselves busy. I would love to know more about the types of games that they play with another and if it is anything like what we have here. I am also very interested in how games and play is incorporated into the children’s school day. Children, especially the younger ones, always need to have game time in their day, because it helps them learn in a more capturing way and keeps them interested in what they are learning.

Besides the playing in school, I want to know about the playing outside of school. What games are played outside and inside, and are they more of the olden type or more modern? I will be researching the types of board games, ball games, pretend games and any other games that the children use to entertain themselves.


3) Research...

Before heading out, I did some backround research. You can see it here:

4) Questions: See Phase 3 for more Information 

1. Since the kids spend a lot of time at school, do they play at school? Are classes broken up to include games (movement games, music games, word games, riddles)?

2.What do they play during recess (monkey bars, hop scotch, rope skipping, ball games)? 

3. Are the classrooms equipped with games (similar to “play corners”, book shelves, activity areas in the classroom)?

4. What kind of games do the kids play after school? Are they more of the ancient Chinese kind or the modern kind?

a) If they are of the ancient kind, what kind of games do they play?

b) If they are of the modern kind, what games are they (video games, board games)?

5.  What kind of outdoor games do they play (rope skipping, ball games, swimming, etc)? Do they have equipment (rollerblades, scooters)? 

6. Are there any games that are traditionally played only on special occasion (birthdays?) (similar to the classic games played in the US (Pin the donkey, musical chairs) or Germany (Plumpsack – a circle game, Topfschlagen - candy hunt with a blindfold)

7.  When do they start "hanging out" and leave the "play" age?

8. How much free time do the kids have after school (or do they have to do a lot of chores? help their parents?)?

9. Are there organized play groups? After school activities? (Do the children have a “schedule” like most children in Europe or the US?)

10. How is “childcare” organized? Who takes care of the children after school? Who is in charge of the very small children (if parents work)?

All of these questions have been answered in my phase 3. Several new ones have also been developed:

Is there a gender difference visible in Xizhou?

Are chores different for boys than for girls?

When do the boys start working?

When do the girls?

How do the parents of the child/children influence the games that the children play?

What games do both boys and girls play together?

Do the girls prefer playing by themselves, with other girls, with other boys or with a combonation of both?

Do the boys prefer playing by themselves, with other boys, with other gilrs or with a combonation of both?

5) Possible Answers...

  1. I know for sure that there will be some games included in the classes. As I mentioned earlier, kids need games to learn. Therefore, I am sure that some of the games are used in classes. 
  2. The kids most likely play ball games and/or pretend games in their break time. 
  3. Cannot answer yet. 
  4. There is probably a mix of ancient and modern games. Some ancient games include kites, jump rope ,shuttlecock (hackeysack) ,Spinning top, Catching Seven Pieces (jacks), tsoo tsoo (sounds a little like marco polo) Modern games would include video games, computer games, ball games (soccer, badminton) , board games.
  5. I have already seen children playing badminton and soccer, and I can imagine that they enjoy playing by like Erhai. I am not sure about the equipment yet.
  6. I am sure that there a some special games that are only for birthdays. It would be awesome if one of the kids had a birthday while we are here so I could observe. 
  7. I believe that the age will be the same as it is in Shanghai/SAS, which is about the 6th grade, or when the children are about 11 years old. 
  8. I am not sure if the kids will have a vast amount of free time, because they need to help their parents more than children would in Shanghai. 
  9. I can assume that there are some kind of after school activities. Maybe if the parents are still working, the kids need to stay somewhere, and they need to be entertained. 
  10. Most schools have some kind of after school program for the kids to go to if they cannot go home straight away. 

Before we head to Xizhou, I need to know exactly where I will be going to find the information on the kids. I think that I should learn about where the schools are and where some popular areas for the children are. This will he helpful because then I can immediately experience a school day and get a base of information about my topic. Another thing I need to learn about is where the kids usually play or go to after school or when they have free time. it would also be helpful to know if they have a recess of brake, and what they do there. Also, if there is a playground, it would be interesting to observe it, because I spent the majority of my lunch on the monkey bars during lunch in elementary school.

Besides the locations I also need to build information on several other things. I think that before I find a deeper meaning I need to connect with the kids and analyze how they learn and what they do for fun; how they play. I think that if I bring a couple games from back home and introduce the kids to them, that I could learn a lot. After finding the areas and schools, I can begin to observe exactly the types of games, so if they are ancient/modern, inside/outside or if they are more with equipment rather than pretend games.



Liebe Nike,


Liebe Nike,

ich freue mich sehr mit dir, dass du gut im Projekt angekomen bist und bin stolz, dasss du es geschafft hast daran teilzunehmen.

Da ich gerade erst von meiner Reise mit Omi nach Cuxhaven - und mit einem Zwischenaufenthalt gestern in Münster - zurückgekommen bin, werde ich deinen blog heute abend genau anschauen und Fragen stellen - wenn ich welche habe und meinen Kommentar abgeben.

Ganz herzliche Grüße

Curious from an elementary principal in Shanghai



I am so interested in your project. 'Play' is something we vaule at the American school, so I wonder what the philosophy will be like around the idea of 'play' at the village school. I plan to follow your project and see what you learn. I will be reminding our teachers to also follow you and maybe ask some questions for you with their classes. Good Luck and we are watching from afar. 

Warm thoughts, 

Alex's Mom, Debbie Lane

birthday games?


Hi Nike,
last Saturday we invited some friends for dinner, including Akkiko, the Japanese wife of a German friend. Somehow, we happened to discuss kids birthday party games and it turned out that she did no none of our German games, like 'Schokoladenessen', 'Topfschlagen', or 'Wattepusten'. I would be really curious to know if such kinds of birthday games are played in Xizhou, and if the kids have birthday parties with friends at all... 'You explorer out there in the field' - maybe you will find out??? Katja

observing play


that would be really great! But how would you conduct your research then? Would you ask to be invited/join in and play with them or would you rather stay in an observer position? Strange idea to have an observer researching one's own birthday party (or other games), right? Would one (as the object of observation) still behave naturally? Maybe the fact that you are somewhat in between - not a kid any more, but not an adult yet - can also be a great advantage in this context, because kids might still accept you as a kind of peer? You might want to research a bit about ethnographic methods to deal with these questions.

Hey Nike :)


You've got so much work done good job :) How was your hike? By the way I like your new microcampus picture!

HI! My name is Nike, and I am 14 years old. I was born in Germany and lived there for 7 years, then Michigan and I have lived in Shanghai since August of 2012. I love eating, dancing, and running. I am now a Microcampus Alumni and was in Xizhou in March of 2013. I deeply miss Xizhou, and wish the best of luck to all future groups! If you have any questions regarding Xizhou, Service Learning, Inquiry, or anything else, let me know! I would be happy to help :)