Concordia Talk

We take a closer look into the goings-on at Concordia International School Shanghai


Clearing the Haze: Empowering Students through Authentic Learning Opportunities

• Teacher Talk
• Anne Love
• High School Science Teacher at Concordia International School Shanghai 

Perhaps you will recall that in December of 2013 Shanghai’s air quality index (AQI) reached alarming levels, which had international schools around the city trying to find ways to keep the air on their campuses safe.

At my school, Concordia International School Shanghai, the administration immediately sprang into action to ensure student health. Within days, the school had formulated and begun implementing a plan, putting hermetic seals on doors and changing and upgrading air filters. More intensive structural changes were to come, with the school seeking a longterm solution by upgrading its fixed air filtration system to one designed to reduce the PM 2.5 to the safest levels possible.

In the midst of this “bad air scare”, the high school principal approached me to get my AP Environmental Science (APES) students involved in gathering and analysing meaningful data and educating our community about air quality. It was exciting to have the students undertake this research because it was a great opportunity for some authentic learning to occur.

The class’s foray into air quality safety got off to a prolific start, with Concordia providing the students handheld PM 2.5 monitors so they could start collecting the raw data. Adding these new numbers to what the school had already been collecting three times a day in ten different locations around campus, students began analysing the large quantity of meaningful information they now had at their disposal.

Through this process of research and analysis, the students learned a great deal about air pollution and about what PM 2.5 actually means. They also learned how to clarify the confusion around the different reporting systems for the United States and China. Students waded through a number of sources to find their data and, in doing so, were able to develop a deeper understanding of this complex and relevant environmental issue.

In the midst of their research, the school completed installation of the new filtration system, which provided students with valuable before-and-after figures. Collating all of the data that had been gathered, they had to determine the type of analysis to perform on the data to show what improvement had occurred. Additionally, they had to determine how to effectively communicate their findings to the stakeholders at the school.

The high school students presented their findings to a captivated audience of parents and teachers at a high school parent coffee. The parents, and teachers, were impressed with how knowledgeable the students were on the topic and how effectively they communicated the difficult content. News of the student’s work spread.

One twelfth grade APES student reflected on the process, saying, “After learning about pollution and how it is measured, we found it necessary to raise the awareness of accurate pollution measurement to the Concordia community... Our aim was to let the parents know the importance of using PM2.5 for pollution index, instead of AQI, and to inform them about the effectiveness of air filters that were currently installed around school. While preparing for the presentation, we ourselves had the chance to learn more about pollution measurement... We were glad to see that parents were enthusiastic about our presentation; they were taking notes and taking pictures of our slides… They were glad to see that the air filters were working effectively, and they were open to our idea of using PM2.5 value instead of AQI”.

When the elementary school principal later invited students to present the research to the elementary school parents as well, the reception was again extremely positive. Despite the amount of work required to provide solid analysis, students were engaged in the process and pleased with the empowerment that their work engendered. “At first I was a little daunted by all the work we had to do, regarding the collection of data and the organising of the information we were going to present”, commented one APES student (Grade 12). “I worked on analysing the data, and that was especially helpful because I felt like I was applying my skills to real-life situations that would actually benefit other people”.

As a teacher, it can be challenging to keep students engaged after they have completed their AP exams. However, the students in the AP Environmental Science class used the final weeks of the school year to refine their experimental design skills, while at the same time continuing their work on air quality.

Each group created a research question surrounding some aspect of air quality at the school, which could be measured using the indoor PM 2.5 monitoring device. They designed their experiments, collected data, drew conclusions and, finally, presented their findings to the Head of School, Assistant Head of School and CFO. Because the students chose questions that they were interested in and whose answers had a direct effect on their lives, they were engaged during the entire process.

These final projects were extremely successful and the students were excited to know the work that they did was valued by the administration.

While no one is a fan of the high AQI days in Shanghai, at least we know we can breathe easily at a school that cares about the safety of its community and encourages its faculty to look for creative and meaningful ways to broaden student knowledge and awareness, no matter how “hazy” the situation.


The Big Transition

•Student Talk
• Taylor Adams
• Grade Nine, Concordia International School Shanghai

As the last day of summer faded into the sunset, the anxious, trembling fingers of incoming freshmen clicked away on keyboards and phone screens— mine included! That evening, we all chattered apprehensively about how nervous we were for high school to start. Would we get lost on the first day? Would we accidentally anger any fierce upperclassmen, known to the freshmen as the “Kings of the Jungle?” The hypothetical list of things that could go wrong was endless!

To my surprise and relief, the next morning I found myself comfortably manoeuvring through the high school maze. I had hilarious friends from all grades in each of my classes, and teachers that were understanding and kind. Since that first day, I have come to one conclusion; Concordia High School is NOT the intimidating jungle I expected it to be.

Even as I continue down my freshman path, I still reminisce about the simpler times in middle school. I miss the family-like environment of attending each class with my homeroom. I yearn for a lighter workload, something I definitely took for granted throughout my middle school career. Though I have a longing for these parts of middle school in my heart, I have fully welcomed and come to love my life as a high school student.

As a new high school student, I have one crucial goal: to be a balanced individual. If I try my best in class, play my hardest in sports, give my efforts to service work and still have time for friends, family and myself, I will have the most successful freshman year imaginable. Though I loved middle school, transitioning to high school unlocked a whole new world of opportunities for me, and signifies a major step in my personal journey towards achieving a successful future.


What’s On At Concordia

7 October
Scott Anderson

Concordia Presents invites speaker, Scott Anderson, to share his unique blend of humour and insight for overcoming life’s challenges to discover true happiness.
Free and open to the public. 7pm. Rittmann Center, Concordia International School Shanghai.

9 October
Autumn Collage Concert

The Music Department at Concordia International School Shanghai will perform their annual Autumn Collage Concert. This event puts an interesting twist on the traditional concert, by stationing musicians and performers around the school, allowing the audience to move freely to the various venues, where they’ll hear different musical styles and performances.
Free and open to the public. 6:30pm. Multiple venues, Concordia International School Shanghai.

13 October to 19 October
BIG IDEAS: Science

Concordia introduces BIG IDEAS: Science, a weeklong event that explores the ever-changing world of S.T.E.M. The week raps up on 17 October with a presentation by Tracy Drain, lead systems engineer at NASA.
Free and open to the public. 7pm. Rittmann Center, Concordia International School Shanghai.

30 October to 1 November
Stand by Me

Concordia Theatre at Concordia International School Shanghai presents, Stand by Me, a play based on Stephen King’s novella The Body. It’s the coming-of-age story of a group of teenagers setting off on their first real adventure.
Price: RMB 50 (student). RMB 100 (adult). For show times and ticket information visit


Interim Photography Competition

Each September, high school students at Concordia International School Shanghai leave the walls of their classrooms behind for some more authentic learning experiences. Interim, a weeklong educational travel experience, offers students adventure, culture and service learning opportunities in various locations around China. Whether they’re following ancient trade routes on the Silk Road, planting trees in Inner Mongolia or teaching migrant children English in Beijing, they’re connecting with their host country and broadening their understanding of the world and themselves.

Following Interim, students participate in a photography competition and exhibition, which celebrates the artistic and expressive talents of the students. The contest, according to middle and high school visual arts teacher, Greer Collins, “Provides students the opportunity to observe, analyse and consider their personal views as works of art… as a means for them to communicate ideas within a visual language”.

The contest is juried by the National Art Honour Society and exhibited in the Concordia High School. Works are evaluated based on essential artistic standards of colour and composition, creative use of subject and effective communication of content through visual imagery.

Here is a selection of this year’s winners...