As always, the end of term is a busy period and, at the time of writing, we are all looking forward to the Lighting of the Christmas Tree event on Friday. There will be other Christmas themed activities throughout next week including a Christmas lunch on Thursday and a different programme on the last day of term. On the 15th December, we shall be starting the day with registration and Period 1 as normal, before having class parties in the second lesson. After an extended break time, we shall be having an end of term assembly before issuing reports and dismissing students at 12 noon. For the class parties, form tutors will be organising for students to bring in different items (such as snacks, drinks etc) and there will also be secret Santa activities organised where students will be encouraged to bring in gifts for their classmates.
In addition to this, there is, as always, an academic focus during the last two weeks. We wish the Year 13 students every success in their Theory of Knowledge presentations, which take place on Monday and Tuesday next week. We shall also be holding our Awards Ceremony for IGCE and International Award from 2:20pm to 3:15pm on Wednesday 13th December. All students from Year 10 and upwards will be in attendance and we warmly invite parents of those students who are being presented with certificates to attend.
Looking ahead to the start of Term 2, we have mock examinations for Years 11 and 13 starting on January 9th. Students in these year groups will need to manage their vacations carefully to ensure that they balance family and recreation time with a detailed revision programme in order to be fully prepared for those important tests. We also have our second set of Academic Review Evenings coming up, with the first of these being for Key Stage 3 on 16th and 18th January. We will be sending details of how to make appointments for this in due course.
Finally, here is the latest instalment of reflections from November’s project week trips. Year 11 visited Chengdu and undertook Service activities in two different panda conservation centres. Nian Er, Katrina and Pushti share some of their learning and experiences:
‘As we know that pandas used to be classified as endangered animals but in 2016 the classification changed to vulnerable. There are about 1800 pandas in the world and around 500 are captive pandas. When twin pandas are born, the mother will choose the stronger child and leave the other one behind. However, in order to increase the population of pandas, the conservation centres keep both children. They switch the children every 2 days, by distracting the mother with food, to make sure both children receive the mother's breast milk in order to keep them alive. A captive panda's average age is 20-30 years, the oldest panda known to human lived up to 38 years. Her name was 佳佳 (jiā jiā). On average, a panda eats 90kg of bamboo and a captive panda's diet is 99% bamboo and 1% carrots, apples and panda cake (which is made of soy bean, rice flour, corn & egg). Pandas only digest 17% of their food intake and therefore poo 10-20kg a day. Pandas eat 14 hours a day and sleep 10 hours a day.
What we have noticed about the Du Jiang Yan conservation center is that the outdoor enclosures are small compared to the Wu Long conservation centre. We think that the Du Jiang Yan conservation centre should make the enclosures bigger as wild pandas mark up to 5 square kilometres of territory. Another thing we noticed is that there were not as many facilities for the pandas to play with at Du Jiang Yan compared to Wu Long. At Wu Long, there was a swing, a wooden play house and a tree, whereas Du Jiang Yan centre only had a wooden play house. We believe that this is not enough as the pandas spend their whole life in that enclosure and therefore need more facilities to play with.
I think that it is good that we are trying to help the pandas and we know that many species are extinct and that pandas used to be endangered. Panda numbers have increased by more than 15% in the last ten years due to the conservation efforts.
However, it can also be bad as pandas are wild animals. We need to set them back into the wild and after many years of care by humans, they won't know how to protect themselves from danger such as predators. For example, the first panda that China set back into the wild died a year later and was found to be attacked by predators.
The first centre we went to was very informative in terms of the efforts into the conservation of pandas by showing us a video as well as an exhibit about pandas. Although we were able to experience all the activities, including feeding, cleaning and making panda cakes, most of our group enjoyed the second conservation centre better. Not only because there were more pandas to see, but also because we were able to learn more about how they do things around the centre throughout the day. For instance, when cleaning the indoor enclosures, they told us the most effective and quickest way to do the tasks. We had to make sure we are cleaning the enclosure quickly because the pandas would want to come back inside after a while from the outdoor enclosure. In the conservation centres, they always separated the panda poo and bamboo in order to find out how much they poo a day and analyse information from them. They can find out what they ate with the colour and how strong their teeth are depending on how finely they grind the food. If the panda is young, they are taken to the vet because they may have a cavity, for example. If the panda is quite old, they adjust the food given to them depending on the strength of their teeth such as smaller bamboo sticks.
In addition, we learnt that when feeding the pandas, we have to bend down so that we don't scare them and make sure we aren't too close or too far to the gate. They always have one arm secured on a metal plate whilst the other hand is used for eating bamboo or panda cake to make sure that it's safe for visitors to feed them. Furthermore, we learnt that panda cakes consist of flour, soybean, water and egg. The dough is made into shapes that look like mooncakes and are steamed for 3 hours before they are ready for feeding. The pandas can only eat less than 1kg of panda cakes a day because they can't consume too much sugar.’