We are delighted to share a blog written by students Charlotte, Sarah and Alicia, from Victoria Shanghai Academy, who are part of a team delivering a Global Goals project for the 2021-22 GSL Global Goals Competition.
Their project is among over 957 social action projects currently running as part of the GSL movement and we are excited to be supporting them to design and lead positive social change in their community!
English Bee is a non-profit project which aims to provide an opportunity for primary students to develop their English skills. The pandemic has adversely affected the quality of education for children. According to the UN, COVID-19 led to an additional 101 million children in grades 1 through 8 falling below minimum reading proficiency levels in 2020. Therefore, we believe it is crucial to establish this project now to foster a long-term interest in reading, writing, and creative thinking.
Our project involves organising weekly sessions led by secondary student volunteers. Volunteers have a choice of leading activities ranging from buddy reading and creative writing workshops for children in grades 1-3, to secondary preparation for students in grades 4-5. While fostering confidence, innovation, and global awareness through the English language for the Primary students, this project also provides the volunteers with a chance to interact with children while developing their communication skills and leadership abilities.
OUR PROJECT HELD VIRTUALLY
Our project originated during our online learning school days. We were especially motivated to start this project because the nature of online school has left children with fewer opportunities to engage in and experience learning as when we were their same age prior to the pandemic. One of our early goals was to recruit volunteers to help us with curating learning materials and leading the sessions. Recruiting volunteers proved to be especially challenging due to the uncertainty surrounding activities being postponed. A large part of starting the project was informing primary students of the project. We attempted various methods to promote our project to volunteers and students. These included posting on social media, building a website, and making an announcement on our school’s virtual bulletin and assemblies. Eventually, our efforts to reach out resulted in 30 volunteers and 60 students.
Initially, we began with online sessions on Monday afternoons through zoom. It was extremely challenging to maintain students’ attention in online sessions. We prepared interactive activities such as pop quizzes to ensure students could actively participate. Regarding our preparation, thanks to technological advances, we have been able to utilize planning software, such as Google Drive, to delegate work through ‘meeting minutes’.
TRANSITIONING FROM VIRTUAL TO OFFLINE
Following the lift of COVID-19 restrictions in Hong Kong, we have been able to move our online lessons to offline lessons allowing them to be more engaging. This was another great challenge for us. The primary and secondary section follow different schedules and have distinct policies. We had to contact primary and secondary school activity coordinators in order to figure out how after school activities were going to run. We ran into difficulties such as not being able to successfully contact the primary school activity coordinator due to hectic schedules on both sides. Regardless, we were able to hold our first English Bee offline session the second week after we got back to school by enquiring with the guidance of other primary teachers.
The Next Chapter
For the purpose of expanding our project to the community level, we contacted E-concept and requested a partnership. E-concept is a student-led non-profit tutoring service for children from disadvantaged families in Hong Kong. As E-concept is in demand for English tutoring, we have proposed to host monthly group sessions for tutees. We are also planning to partner with Kids4Kids as our project drew inspiration from them. Moreover, we plan to organize a book drive around our school and collect old books from libraries for reuse during English Bee sessions.
We hope by sharing our experience in this blog that we will inspire others to persevere through challenges. Uniting everyone during a pandemic in which we could not be physically together was extremely difficult. Nonetheless, we did not let limitations imposed by the pandemic stop us from achieving our goal of starting the English Bee project to help students.