This week we are grateful to have Yuemei Li as our interviewee. 

Yuemei, who teaches at our Confucius Classroom School Devonport High School for Girls in Plymouth, Devon, will be presenting the workshop “Gifts of the Gardens and the Kitchens of China – fantasy of a new Chinese curriculum?” at our 19th Annual Chinese Teaching Conference.

Hi Yuemei, could you share some information about your workshop?  

This workshop will provide colleagues with an opportunity to explore the possibility to link horticulture and cooking to their Scheme of Work and lesson plans, to use either as an enrichment or GCSE teaching resource.  

What do you hope the participants will learn from your workshop?

After taking part in the group discussions with fellow colleagues and having the opportunity to create their own worksheets and share them with each other, colleagues will be more confident in designing a new curriculum or a small project based on topics around Chinese culture and current world affairs, to meet their students’ needs with more flexibility. 

What made you think of choosing horticulture and cooking as cultural elements to link into the curriculum?  How do you think these links will encourage students to study Mandarin long-term?   

I was inspired by Jane Kilpatrick’s book, Gifts from the gardens of China and I am a big fan of BBC TV programme Gardeners’ World.  Jane said in her book:

Since the pandemic and lockdown, young people’s mental health couldn’t be more important. It is natural to consider introducing horticulture to the students, using the historical links between the UK and China to help them connect with nature within the Chinese curriculum.  

The other inspiration is Fuchsia Dunlop and her cookbooks, which have won several awards both nationally and internationally. Just as Fuchsia commends Chinese cuisines on their excellence in colour, aroma and taste, food culture has always been a well-received topic by students. In other words, the study could involve all different senses, which will help to maximise their learning outcomes. Students use a list of advanced vocabulary of authentic ingredients and cooking methods while they enjoy making dumplings, 红烧牛肉面 (braised beef noodles) or 鱼香茄子(fish-fragrant aubergine). The experience will stay with them well, even after they have finished their GCSE exams.  

In both cases, learning is closely linked to students’ real-life experiences and is something they enjoy and benefit from. This will no doubt increase students’ motivation which is vital to encourage them to study in the long term. 

Since cultural enrichment is a large area, what norms would you think are important to put into the subject-centred curriculum?  

Education should prepare students for their future, including work and life. Likewise, when considering which cultural enrichment activities are important to include in the subject-centred curriculum, those closely linked to students’ real-life situations and current world affairs and themes will be the most relevant and so should be embedded into the curriculum. The good news is you will find that quite often, there is an overlap with the subject matter objectives when such a cultural enrichment is introduced.    


Thank you, Yuemei!

 We look forward to welcoming ticket-holders to Yuemei’s workshop on Saturday 1st October at the IOE.


Click here to see the full programme for this year’s Annual Conference and book a ticket .