Education-plus December 2018 | 超越教育 2018年12月

Learning through nature 自然教室 “I n a regular school, students who disrupt classes are usually punished. This is not necessarily the case in this school. We discourage our teachers from either penalising or over-rewarding our students.” The headmaster's voice was gradually replaced by the rhythmic sound of the ceiling fans. Outside the class window was a grassy floor bedecked with longans, exuding sweet fragrance. Nestled in the greenery stands RTC GAIA School, founded by Starfish (Yip Chung-sing), an alumnus of EdUHK, together with fellow members of GAIA Association. At this school, all teachers and students have a name stemming from nature, which is also central to the curriculum. Students acquire their subject knowledge through personal experiences, such as playing with sand, climbing rocks and camping. They enhance their self-understanding by learning about the relationship between human and nature, and between themselves and others. For instance, an activity which involves jumping from the pier into the sea aims to allow Primary Six pupils to understand and overcome their fears. Idea of ‘alternative’ school takes root After Starfish attained a bachelor’s degree in applied physics, he got involved in community work and taught in village schools. He found that the students, while not academically outstanding, were particularly happy. Witnessing his students’ growth and progress deepened his interest in teaching, and led him to pursue a Postgraduate Diploma in Education at The Education University of Hong Kong (EdUHK). During his studies at EdUHK, he was inspired by the teaching ethos of Summerhill School in England. This revived his childhood interest in “alternative” methods, and proved that there is room for different modes of education. At RTC GAIA School, Starfish and his like-minded friends put their teaching philosophies into practice – “no reward, no penalty” being one of them. At this school, teachers believe that students would not interrupt lessons for no reason, hence, they patiently communicate with the pupil, to find the cause of this behaviour and resolve the matter. “If you punish students without finding out the reason, they would experience negative emotions and shame, leading to low self-esteem,” said Starfish, “while over-rewarding would cause them to blindly chase rewards. We have learned to celebrate their achievements with them.” With a belief that a sense of security is the foundation of quality learning, the teachers encourage their students to try courageously, 24 People 人物