By The Innovative Learning Center‘s Program Leaders

Often in the normal course of the day at the Innovative Learning Center in Shanghai, there are many “teachable moments” that pop up organically in everyday situations. These special times to grab an opportunity and have an impact are what make us love our job.

We came up with our favorite alternative education teaching moments from the past few weeks. We hope these inspire you with your own kids or in your classroom.


Spring Learning

Our littlest children, in the Early Intervention program, learned all about seeds and plants by engaging in planting and observing seeds and plants. We planted beans in a pot using potting soil, which is a great way to practice in-hand manipulation and eye-hand coordination skills. The children learned about the life cycle of plants and the activity also gave them a chance to enjoy the amazing process of seeing something grow. In addition, planting seeds can encourage responsibility since the children need to water and care for the plants on a daily basis. Hands-on learning is one of the most effective methods to motivate children to understand new concepts.


Snack Time in Pudong

Our Pudong group is using snack time as an opportunity for the children to practice some of the social rituals of mealtime, reinforce language goals, and create a shared experience.  Every day, each child has a job to do. These jobs rotate weekly and consist of handing out cups, plates, forks, and sometimes fresh fruit to each peer.

The children can easily find their job for the week by looking at a visual schedule placed prominently in the kitchen of our new Lujiazui space. The focus is for the children to make eye contact with one another and acknowledge the exchange of items with appropriate verbal or non-verbal communication.  Each child also has a placemat with his or her name and they are all familiar with each other’s placemats and seating arrangement.

As we have progressed with this idea, the children are becoming comfortable and confident, taking on more and more independence to facilitate their own jobs.  This daily ritual makes a positive difference in the atmosphere of snack time and the interaction between the children.  It is also interesting to watch the excitement and pride the children feel when given this responsibility.


Digging for Dinosaurs

Our Academic Program (currently including kids aged 8-12) joined the young adults of our Life Skills Program (LSP) to engage in a fossil “dig” in our back yard. They then visited the “Paleontologist Lab” to analyze their fossils.

Both activities help build a sense of cohesiveness as a group. They also help students focus, teach new vocabulary and retain information.



It’s Show Time!

Our Teen Program put on a short play recently describing important aspects of the prehistoric era (in line with Prehistoric Theme Month at ILC). The play involves 3 dinosaurs, a narrator and a couple of lethal dust clouds. Much more is involved in a play than just performing on stage. Even though it is a small play we have an audio/visual technician, a stage assistant and an acting consultant. All the positions are filled by children from the Teen and Life-Skills Programs. Throughout the preparations the children learn about geography, meteorology, archeology and different types of dinosaurs. During rehearsals, the teens practice team work and physical activities through acting.