York, PA’s Weary Arts Group – A 4G Field Trip for Students of Shakespeare

There is perhaps no better way for students to dive into the art of theatrical performance than by studying the greatest playwright of all time, William Shakespeare. While reading an adaptation of the comedy Much Ado about Nothing, BGL‘s 8th grade distance learning students explored the themes of the story while learning how to add expressiveness to their acting of the play’s scenes. This 4G Field Trip with the Weary Arts Group in York, PA brought the concept home for these students in a fun and informative way. Our gracious and dynamic hosts, Calvin and Dante, mesmerized the class with their performances, and the students were grateful to learn from some experts.
Thanks to Teacher Jackie for facilitating the trip and for creating short and long versions of the field trip video. See them below!

That’s Crafty! Our 4G Field Trip to Tom Colicchio’s LA Restaurant

Wow! BGL’s 501 Class was very lucky to take a virtual field trip to Tom Colicchio‘s Craft LA, one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. The charming and well-spoken manager, Todd Thurman, led the tour and gave the 5th graders a unique insight into the process behind creating some of the world’s finest dishes.

Manager Todd Thurman introduces Taiwanese 5th graders to Craft LA.

Manager Todd Thurman introduces Taiwanese 5th graders to Craft LA.

“Teacher Todd” first showed us around the patron area, discussing the nature of the owner’s fame and the concept behind the design of the dining space.

Students are introduced to Craft's formal dining space.

Students are introduced to Craft’s formal dining space.

The real fun started as we headed into the kitchen. As we visited each of the stations, Teacher Todd told us some of the work that goes into creating such unique food. All of the fruits and vegetables are sourced from Farmer’s Markets up and down the state of California. Some markets will come by the restaurant with a huge selection of food with only the most superb ingredients chosen by special Craft staff.

Chef de Cuisine Ray England addresses the students.

Chef de Cuisine Ray England addresses the students.

We had the pleasure of meeting the head chef (or, “Chef de Cuisine”), Ray England, who talked to the students about Craft’s use of the entire animal after butchering. This made sense to the Taiwanese students, whose culture celebrates the eating of many foods that we might consider “exotic” in an effort to waste no part of butchered animals.



Of course, the students were most excited when they saw the gourmet chocolate chip cookies and, especially, the homemade sorbet and ice cream. One student wished that there was a machine that would allow people to “throw stuff through the television screen” so that they could eat some of the ice cream. The Craft staff got a kick out of the enthusiasm the students showed for their favorite sweets.

Afterwards, Teacher Seth was so hungry he had to sit down and sample the octopus and summer squash puttanesca and orecchiette with lamb and fava beans.

The best octopus I've ever tasted.

The best octopus I’ve ever tasted.

Orecchiette with lamb and fava beans.

Orecchiette with lamb and fava beans.

All in all, a fantastic experience for students and tour guides alike. This was a great way to wrap up our food unit, which also had us taking a virtual field trip to a farmer’s market and conducting a recipe collaboration with the Environmental Charter School in Pittsburgh.

Many thanks Teacher Seth’s good buddy Jim Wisniewski for setting up the trip! Here are some of the best thank you notes from the students:

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Virtual Entrepreneurs – Our 4G Field Trip to Lumosity

To understand more about designing their own companies, our advanced 8th grade Distance Learning class took a virtual field trip to the San Francisco offices of Lumos Labs, the builder of the world-famous brain-training service, Lumosity. Prior to the trip, the students read about other Silicon Valley companies and discussed the importance of innovation when starting a new technology company. They also discussed the competitive hiring processes in the Bay Area and the perks that some companies – like Lumosity – use to attract the most talented employees.
In the video above, we see students being led by their fantastically engaging tour guide, Amanda, as well as their distance learning teacher in Los Angeles, BGL’s Teacher Jackie. This 4-minute highlight reel of the 45-minute trip shows Amanda leading the students through the open working areas, fun spaces, and the many kitchens of Lumosity.
While students were most amazed by the food options in the kitchens (and by the gaming areas), they also found inspiration for their assignment to design their own companies. For that assignment, students created advertisements that captured why their company should be an industry leader, just like Lumosity.
Here is some of their best work:
An 8th grader's idea for a new company - ear rings: combination earrings and headphones.

An 8th grader’s idea for a new company – ear rings: combination earrings and headphones.

An example of ear rings, Minions-style.

An example of ear rings, Minions-style.

Another 8th grader's business idea: wifi cards.

Another 8th grader’s business idea: wifi cards.

Another 8th grader's business idea: an app that allows you to rent products before you buy them.

Another 8th grader’s business idea: an app that allows you to rent products before you buy them.

Which companies would your class like to visit? Leave your ideas in the comments section.

Dinosaurs! Another Great 4G Field Trip to NHM

Our 6th grade class at Tsai Hsing School recently read an adapted version of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. They discussed and analyzed the myriad cultural and historical issues raised by the story, which has a time traveler go hundreds of thousands of years into the future to find that the human race has evolved into two separate species.

Students listen to NHM's Teacher Jessie introduce specific dinosaur bones.

Students listen to NHM’s Teacher Jessie introduce specific dinosaur bones.


Admittedly, it was a loose connection that brought us back for yet another virtual field trip to the outstanding Natural History Museum during this unit. In a way, we became the time travelers as we learned about these amazing creatures, but really we just wanted to see NHM’s awesome specimen collection.

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As usual, the excellent Jessie Daniel led the trip and engaged the students through his combination of knowledge and enthusiasm. Students were rapt as he took them through the halls showing full-scale models and skeletons of these ancient creatures.


Some of the braver students stood up to participate in a compelling Q & A that the students would never had had access to without modern technology.



In the end, it was another great time had by all. We look forward to our next visit!



5 Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Taiwan

At BGL we find that celebrating holidays is a great, authentic way to teach culture. Here are five ways we’ve been able to communicate our love for the holiday season with our students in Taiwan.

1. Talk to Holiday Shoppers on a 4G Field Trip to an American Mall

Our Field Trips Live are one of the most popular elements of our program. It’s always fun to see two cultures merge, especially so during the holidays. Here are some images from this year’s trip to Glendale, CA’s Americana:


Students watch a holiday-themed trolly drive by at the Americana mall in Glendale, CA.


A friendly family answers questions from our students, and asks some of their own. The mom is a high school art teacher and thought our field trip was super cool!


A man with a Santa hat pauses from his holiday shopping to ask our students how many of them celebrate Christmas with their families at home.


Teacher Seth shows the students their reflection in his iPhone.

2. Read our Adaptation of A Christmas Carol

We adapt many classic novels so that we can challenge our Taiwanese students with sophisticated concepts while making sure that the texts are at an accessible language level. Our sixth grade classes read the classic Dickens tale each year, and this year we added a song and music video to reinforce the story’s main concepts of reflection and redemption:

3. Have a Teacher Holiday Party

Teaching abroad can be tough during the holidays. Getting together with other expats – and locals – to celebrate can make it all seem just a little closer to home. Teachers Audrey and Sarah did just that: image (6)

4. Listen to BGL’s Family Christmas Song

And, of course, our original Christmas song is a perennial favorite:

5. Celebrate on Campus

Tsai Hsing School’s birthday is 12/25, so in December the campus is filled with Christmas decorations, costumes and pageants. Here are some charming shots of our 4th grade bilingual class and some of our American teachers feeling the Christmas spirit:










Merry Christmas, everyone!


Teaching Halloween to Taiwanese Students: Frankenstein and a 4G Field Trip

The jack-o-lanterns are shining, the air is cooling, and little costumed monsters roam the streets – it’s time for Halloween! A treasured holiday to many Americans, Halloween of course is foreign to our students in Taiwan. Holidays and festivals can provide a unique window into a culture, so here at BGL we try to bring American holidays to life the best way we know how: through engaging content that includes adapted classic texts and virtual field trips. In this case, our seventh-grade students read an adapted version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and virtually visited a Halloween store 6,700 miles away from their Taipei classroom in Glendale, CA.


There are two spirit-inspired holidays in Taiwan, the Hungry Ghost Festival and Tomb Sweeping Day. However, these holidays are more somber and serious when compared with the candy-filled, month-long costume spook-tacular known as Halloween. Upon visiting the spectacle that is the American Halloween store, students were amazed at the huge variety of costumes, make-up, decorations and other Halloween tricks and treats.

And, after recently reading Frankenstein, students were able to easily make connections to the costumes they saw in the store. For their coursework the students had designed “Wanted Posters” for Dr. Frankenstein:

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So, they had a good idea of what the characters in the story looked like, including Frankenstein’s monster. After the field trip, students were prompted to describe their own monster Halloween costume and compare them with Frankenstein’s Monster. Here’s what they had to say: 

Audrey – My monster is going to look like a deer with feathers and scales. And its appearance will not be as same as the monster. It would be loved by Chinese people. And I will take good care of it.

Bibby – My monster will be very different because the monster may get shot, and everyplace would be bitten, and it will have white eyes. Just like the monster that we saw in the store and cost $5970 NT. I think my monster will make many children cry, and the monster was made for children. So it might have been popular if it didn’t hurt people.

Tina – I would like to use the fake scar, mask and the costume. I will buy fake blood, too, it will make me look really scary. I will make my monster look tall and scary, but he is not kind, like Frankenstein’s monster. If they don’t give me candy, I will give them chocolate egg candy.

Victoria – I would use the thing which can make my eyes look black and without eyeballs, and the special scar-sticker.  The scar would show the experience when he was hit by the villagers, and the black eyeballs show he was cursed by a witch who was in the village.

Matthew – If I were going to make a monster like Frankenstein, I would make it look like Iron Man. I chose Iron Man, because it is cool. My monster’s experience won’t be the same as Frankenstein. It won’t be the same, because my monster can fight the bad guys and help other people, so it will be very popular instead of a terrible monster.

Celine – I think if I make a monster, it will look just like Frankenstein’s monster. He will have green skin around his body. He would like to eat humans, because he is a scary monster. So I think it is just like Frankenstein’s monster.

Mike – I will make a monster by using the white eyes, one leg will be gone, and he will have lots of wounds on his body. My monster will scare everyone. The people who are scared by the monster will give me some candy. Because I won the game, that’s whose monster was the scariest.

Yvonne – I think I’ll create a monster that has long hair, red eyes, and sharp teeth. I’ll let her live in my bedroom. But I think I need to clean my bedroom everyday. If I let her just walk on the street, I think it will be similar with Frankenstein’s monster. My creature looks like a…… crazy woman. So I think she really need to stay in my bedroom.

How do you teach Halloween or other American holidays to your students abroad? Share your stories in the comments section.


Virtually Traveling the Silk Road with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

BGL‘s virtual field trip to the Natural History Museum of LA was our most ambitious to date. Employing the excellent new museum-wide wifi network installed by Time Warner Cable, we were able to take our Taiwanese students on a virtual journey along the Silk Road. The network was stable and fast enough throughout the amazing exhibit that we were able to actually connect to two classes at once using two different devices, bringing the field trip to twice as many students.

Traveling the Silk Road Closes April 13, 2014.

The opening of Traveling the Silk Road

We were lucky to be treated to a private, after-hours tour of the exhibit (the museum’s normal closing time – 5pm – is the start of the school day – 8am – in Taiwan). We were led by Jesse Daniel, the extremely knowledgable lead educator at the museum.  The tour started with a look at a map of the Silk Road. It was exciting for the Taiwanese students to see their island highlighted on the map; Taiwan is just across the Taiwan Strait from the easternmost sections of the road.



The Silk Road is named, of course, for silk, the luxuriously soft fabric that was confined to China before it began to be traded along the route. Our Taiwanese students were familiar with the story of Empress Leizu, who Chinese legend says first discovered silk when a silkworm’s cocoon fell into her teacup. Wishing to extract the cocoon from her cup, she unrolled the thread of the cocoon and then had the idea to weave the thread into fabric. The exhibit displayed a Chinese parchment that told this story, but the real attraction was the live silk worms in various stages of development. Our students were excited to see creatures living within the walls of the museum.



Other highlights of our journey along the road included seeing products that were traded along the route, including a fascinating mix of fruits and vegetables and musical instruments whose variety was indicative of the road’s diversity of ideas and people.

A diverse group of fruits and vegetables from various locations along the route.

A diverse group of fruits and vegetables from various locations along the route.

Jesse told us that the statue on the left is one of the exhibit's curator's favorites because the people riding on the camel clearly represent the various cultures who traded along the route.

Jesse told us that the statue on the left is one of the exhibit’s curator’s favorite pieces because the people riding on the camel clearly represent the diverse cultures who traded along the route.

Another great personal connection for our students was to learn about some of the world’s first night markets in the desert city of Turfan, where temperatures were too hot to trade during the day. Night markets are an ever present cultural phenomenon in Taiwan.



The Silk Road was the Internet of its time – the best and fastest way to exchange innovations, ideas and culture. Carrying information via camel was not quite as fast as the fiber optics and satellites we use today, a fact that was poignantly demonstrated by our ability to bring a tour of the exhibit live to students in Taiwan using handheld devices.

BGL's Teacher Seth and Teacher Travis connect to Taiwan while NHM's Jesse teaches about the camels that traveled along the Silk Road.

BGL’s Teacher Seth and Teacher Travis connect to Taiwan while NHM’s Jesse teaches about the camels that carried people and information along the Silk Road.

It was amazing to be able to utilize the Internet – the most powerful tool for information exchange the world has ever known – to learn about an ancient phenomenon that previous held that very same distinction. We and our students owe a profound thanks to the museum staff, especially Danielle Brown and Jesse Daniel, for making it happen!

-All photos and video by BGL’s Teacher Lisa Filpi.