Concordia Middle School Shanghai explores Beijing from city to farm

IMG_8643-compressor (1)by Ian Gabrielson, Education Programs Coordinator

From September 21-25, over 100 Grade Seven students from Concordia Middle School in Shanghai cycled between Beijing City and The Northern Hills in a special rendition of The Hutong’s  “Experience Beijing” program. Split into two groups (The Ming and The Qing), these students took turns visiting the bustling streets of the Capital and the quiet confines of the villages and parks in the mountains outside Beijing.

The Ming group started their adventure transferring directly to Huanghuacheng Reservoir from the airport. Grabbing their daypacks and a few rations, the group trekked around the crystal blue waters of reservoir and learned to set up tents at the pristine campsite in the shadow the Huanghuacheng Great Wall. Once camp was all set up, the students hiked the Great Wall, listened to myths about how this particular section was created, and worked in teams to create myths of their own.

After a delicious BBQ dinner provided by a local family, students swapped stories, roasted marsh mellows, and made gooey smores around a campfire. Once their tummies were full, it was off to sleep, with many of the students getting their first taste of sleeping in tents under the night sky.   

The next morning the local family was back, with more delicious home cooking for breakfast including boiled eggs, pickled mantou bread, and fresh cucumbers. Expert Geologist Steve Allnutt then introduced students to geology of the area by leading students on a walk to the Heilong pond, and ideal place to learn about the natural forces that created this beautiful area. 

IMG_4117-compressorAfter taking time to breakdown our camp, students, eager to have some more wall time, hiked out of the park via the Great Wall; once again enjoying the magnificent surroundings of the crumbling ancient structure. 

After a quick shower and lunch to rejuvenate our group, we were off to the village of Tianxianyu, where students got a chance to work together in teams to complete The Hutong’s patented Tianxianyu Village Scavenger Hunt. This incredibly engaging activity got the students interacting with locals, searching for hidden treasures, creating their own exercise machines, and wandering around the quaint little village in the shadow of the infamous Jiankou Great Wall section.  IMG_4736-compressor 

Settling down for yet another home cooked meal, the students were introduced to two of The Hutong’s favorite local partners, Mr. and Mrs. Ge. Mr. Ge helped orientate the students to the local culture by teaching them the intricate nature of chestnut harvesting, one of the regions most important economic activities. Munching on warm, freshly cooked chestnuts before heading off to sleep in the comfy confines of their kang style beds, students were given the opportunity to reflect on all that they had seen and learned about rural life in the last few days.

The morning of day 3 saw us say goodbye to the Ges and head to Tianchi Canyon Scenic Park on the other side of the mountain. At the park, we hoped to participate in the Mrs. Qingqing Wang’s famous Via Ferrata course, however the weather was not in our favor on this day. Not to be too deterred by the rain, the students made use of the historic Revolutionary Radio Tunnel found inside the park, learning the history of the Sino-Soviet Split and making their own revolutionary podcasts to share amongst their teams.

Leaving the country behind and heading into the city, students first made a stop in Shuyni’s Pinnacle Plaza for some tastes of home and some much needed RR.  Stocking up on goodies for their journey home at Jenny Wang’s, students even got the opportunity to be introduced to Jenny herself!

Students finished off the afternoon by exploring the wonders of Jingshan Park. We led the students through the winding paths and up to the temple hill to view the spectacular panoramic of the Forbidden City, all the while giving students an introduction to the rich history of the park and city. 

After a delightful Indian Buffet dinner at Ganges, students were off to the comforts of the Beijing Travellers Inn to dry off and rest up for another full day of activities in the city.

Day 4 saw The Ming group split into two teams and alternate between the winding alleys of the hutongs and graffitied Bauhauses of 798 Art District. At both venues students participated in an array of learning activities including hunting for sculptures, photography challenges, dumpling making, and of course, our famous Hutong Scavenger Hunt. Blessed within an absolutely gorgeous Beijing blue-sky day, students really got the opportunity to see some of the best of what the capital has to offer. 

With our program winding down, students finished their “Experience Beijing” with a delightful Peking Duck dinner and trip to the Chaoyang Theater for the infamous acrobat show. With tummies filled with some of Beijing best dishes, students marveled as the acrobats performed their eye popping stunts. A truly great way to finish off the program!

Overall, it was an action packed week that got these grade 7s seeking challenge, embracing diversity, going the extra “li” and having all out fun learning and experiencing the best of what Beijing has to offer with The Hutong.