In 2016, I wrote my first Vision Post article titled Experience Week in which I recalled my own experiences that I gained while travelling abroad as a high school student and as a supervising teacher for school trips. Even looking back through the lens of the current pandemic, I still wholeheartedly endorse travel to new countries and cities as the interactions and experiences help to contextualize what it means to be international and normalize differences in race, religion, and beliefs. However, these programs need to be curated with student safety at the forefront and although the situation is improving, the world is not at the point where anyone can travel wherever they’d like as was the case back in 2016
Despite the limits imposed by world events, the ideals of Experience Week remain as they have always been: spend time outside of the regular classroom walls and become immersed in a program that allows for the development of well rounded students. Recently, this has been framed through the IB component of CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service). These three pillars mirror what we at TIS have always valued as key aspects of the TIS Advantage: Extracurricular Activities, Athletics, Community Service, and Fine Arts. Because of this, regardless of the distance we are able to travel, Experience Week will remain a valued and valuable component of how we approach the education of our students.
Knowing that we were not going to be able to leave Macau this year, it was an opportune moment to find ways to explore our home and really take advantage of what our SAR has to offer. No matter how long a person has lived in Macau, there are ways to interact with the people, the nature, the animals, and the landscape that have not been tried before. Even activities which have been done previously take on a whole new meaning when the participants are in mixed groups where old friends mingle with new acquaintances, and everyone takes time to set aside the rigours of academic study and the pervasive glare of our devices.
This year, all students from grades 4 to 12 were able to participate in some form of Experience Week. Activities were scaffolded from only taking place for part of the week for our younger students, to full week activities that were common to the whole grade for our Middle School students, and then giving students the choice of program in High School. For the older students, not only was it important to try and match their preference in the program, but also to match their preference for a friend. Each student in High School chose their top three programs and one friend that they’d like to participate with. Assuming that both students selected each other, they were assured of having someone familiar to share in the activities and to build common memories. While we encourage students to mingle and mix with peers that they may not usually interact with, we also feel it’s important to have the reassuring presence of a friend when stepping into the unknown.
Giving our senior students agency to follow their passions or interests is an important step in the process and to this end, students in High School were able to choose between programs that focused on Dance, Urban Photography, Watercolour Painting, Sports & Games, Alzheimer's Awareness, Cooking, Street Art, Sailing and Homeroom Helpers. In addition to the main focus, various other components were built into the schedule to take advantage of our Activists in Residence, the Dom Bosco Youth Camp, the Hac Sa Park and BBQ area, and many other facilities around the city. Perhaps the most enduring legacy was the construction of our Secondary House Totems that are now displayed in the main stairwell of the North Wing. Built by multiple groups over many days, these were a combined effort and should be a source of pride for all who had a hand in their creation.
The reception to our completely local Experience Week was overwhelmingly positive from the students, and we are extremely grateful to each of them for getting involved and participating to their fullest extent. We also appreciate the support of our parents, and are grateful for the hard work from Mr. Boyko and all of the teachers and staff who helped to organize and supervise the many different activities that took place.
Here are some quotes from the students that touch on what they learned and enjoyed from the week.
What did you learn?
I learned a lot about how to edit photos (turns out I'm pretty good at it).
I learnt how to cut wood.
I learnt how to start a fire with matches.
I learnt how to sail and tie knots.
I learned how to be inclusive with other people.
I learned about young elementary and their behaviour. They are very energetic and lively with every single one of them being super lovely and kind towards me.
Did it make you see Macau/TIS in a different way?
Yes, this made me see TIS as a community in a different way. This is because I realize how school can be not just about studying and worrying about academics everyday, instead, it could be a place where we meet new people and spread our kindness and love to each other, making everyone feel included in the big family.
It made me realize that there are a lot of activities that I haven't known about that are really fun. I also realized that Coloane is a really nice area and I should spend more time there.
Will this be a week you will cherish in the future?
Yes, sailing is definitely something I would do again, and knowing all this information will help me in the future.
Yes, this will be a week that I will cherish in the future because the enjoyable moments with the kids will most definitely turn into happy memories.
What was your ultimate highlight from experience week?
The ultimate highlight from my experience week was working with kids because handling kids in that way was almost an entirely new experience for me and it was so fun to do. Helping the kids and making what they're learning into a fun experience was ultimately the best and most rewarding experience that I had over Experience Week.