Exploring China: One Educator's Experience

When a teacher visits new places, it can inspire a wide range of fresh and interesting teaching activities.

By Andrea Ferrero


Exploring China


On a recent trip to China, I had the unique opportunity to experience the local sights and sounds, as well as take part in an exchange with Chinese education counterparts. The trip was enthralling, exhilarating, and memorable. Some of my favorite moments were:

  • Standing awe-struck atop the Great Wall of China, musing on how it was created and its role in the course of history.
  • Wandering through the marketplace near the ancient villages in Guiyang.
  • Exploring the mystical Dragon Palace caves.
  • Sitting down in the tea house in Beijing to be led through a traditional tea ceremony.
  • Watching a kung fu show.
  • Tasting new foods and spices.


However, my fondest memories of the trip are related to the purpose of the journey itself. I joined a delegation, which was put together by the People to People Ambassador Program and the ASCD, to take part in an interchange of ideas, common issues, and goals with Chinese educators. I found out quickly that educators in both nations share common goals: to meet student needs, support high achievement, incorporate multicultural education, integrate technology, and promote creative thinking. Through visiting school sites and speaking with teachers, administrators, professors, and policy makers, I discovered that the passion for providing quality instruction and assessment transcended all cultural differences. We were able to learn from one another’s strengths and successes, as well as discuss areas for improvement in efforts that had not yet shown the desired results. Each exchange left everyone in the group inspired and refreshed with not only new ideas, but the knowledge that improving and innovating within education is a global effort.

Needless to say, my time visiting China gave rise to a number of wonderful related lesson ideas and activities.

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is one of the most important Chinese holidays. The event celebrates the beginning of a new year as determined by the Chinese Lunar calendar and the coming of spring. Celebrations can last up to a month and include hanging festive decorations, sharing food, honoring ancestors, and giving gifts, all of which center on bringing good luck for the New Year and celebrating the arrival of spring.

My students loved building context for the Chinese New Year by examining the Chinese Zodiac and discovering the animal that represents the year of their birth. We then explored the animal zodiac for 2012, the Dragon, and created a dragon puppet. To create their puppets, we used a printable of a dragon’s head, which they colored, cut out, and affixed a red or yellow streamer to as a tail.

Great Wall

I was fascinated by the Great Wall and found it to be a wonderful topic for many lessons and activities. It can be explored through stories and charted through maps and timelines. It can also be examined for its historical impact and uses throughout the centuries it has existed.

For many, the Great Wall represents more than just  a historical wonder. Masses of people from across China, and around the world, make the pilgrimage to the Great Wall as a rite of passage. In climbing the Great Wall, they truly become a man or woman, embracing their inner warrior or adventurer. Bringing this back to the classroom, you can introduce the Great Wall through pictures, slide shows, or short films. Follow up by asking students to brainstorm other rites of passage, both locally and globally. Some ideas may include riding a bicycle, learning to drive, or graduating high school. Students can then write in a journal about a rite of passage they either look forward to or plan to accomplish. 

More Lessons on China:

Great Wall of China

Using Internet sources, scholars  take a virtual tour of the Great Wall and discuss their impressions of it. Next, they collaborate to create scale models of the Great Wall and complete journal activities based on what they learn about the structure.

China Quest

Working to complete a China Hunt worksheet, students discover facts about Chinese history while using map skills. Students also work together to discuss and answer questions provided on the worksheet.

Build the Great Wall 

Using modeling clay, students work in groups to create a miniature replica of the Great Wall. Extension activities are included.