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School Stories — HaWo (Part 1)

So, in Year 7, I transitioned to a new school and it followed the IB MYP* system in Hong Kong. I vividly remember for maths class we did a project… (because it was MYP we didn’t have exams, everything was project-based) we did a project where we were learning about angles and measurement and all that stuff. But, how we did it was we designed a house and we had to do a blueprint of, like, the floorplan and at the end we had to calculate the area using square metres and what angle etc. There were application questions at the end of that like: “Why did you decide to have the amount of rooms that you did?”, and it also asked for you to describe the house rather than just including the formulas or other maths questions. It wasn’t just about measurement, it was a creative project.

Now, looking back, I really enjoyed the whole thing because it was interactive and I used different parts of my brain. I wasn’t just stuck with textbook materials to answer and then get marked and that’s it. We were graded, but no one really cared about the grades; at least, I didn’t. I cared more about my house ’cause I enjoyed designing the house. What made it better was our teacher made us go onto the oval and use a surveyor’s wheel to draw out our imaginary house just for fun.

We didn’t have textbooks for maths. Everything was done in booklets. Actually, now thinking about it, for quite a few subjects we didn’t use textbooks in the way of “Open up to page whatever and do these questions.” They were used as reference. For example, I had Design Technology and we had a book but it was a reference book, kind of like an encyclopedia more than anything.

Oh, I remember, actually, in the booklet, at first, there was an already-designed house as an example and we used it to learn about angles first and then the second part was when we went out and did all that stuff. So, even the initial phase of how it was introduced to us was already in an integrated format, like there was a context to it, as opposed to doing exercises.

Especially at that age, I think it’s a lot about making you imagine: “What do I want?” Obviously, at that age, you wouldn’t own a house but you have the space to imagine, “If it were up to me…”, because at that age, nothing is up to you. Maybe that’s also another reason why I enjoyed a lot of those projects because I got to define…it was up to me to make things happen.

I think the learning I took from it was basically creative problem-solving. From a student’s point of view I think it was about learning that things can be done and problems can be solved in different ways. It wasn’t like: “There’s one way and it’s at the back of the textbook”. And it made me think and think outside the box. If I wanted my house to be more glamorous than the example, I had to figure out how to do that.

I don’t have distinct, vivid memories of learning from my parents and I realised why. I was catching up with a friend and we were talking about Asian culture. From that conversation I realised I did learn things from my parents but they were like traditions or like cultural identity…a lot of things that we just kinda do rather than, I dunno, things that challenge me to open up to other things. Maybe my MYP experience stood out to me because it introduced things to me that were outside the home, not as familiar to me or something. Maybe sometimes the things I received from my parents…I was still in a bubble where they were still practicing traditions so I didn’t feel like I was being introduced to a new domain.

*International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program

School stories and the lives of those who tell them. Based in Victoria, Australia.