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!


Spidey Sense: 4G Field Trip to NHM’s Spider Pavilion

On Oct. 28, 2014, Banyan Global Learning partnered once again with the Natural History Museum, Los Angeles for another 4G Field Trip. Last time we took the students on a tour of the Silk Road, but this time, with Halloween fast approaching, we took them to the creepy-cool open-air Spider Pavilion, home to the world’s largest orb spider species among other crawly little friends.

Spider Pavilion
Welcome to the Spider Pavilion!

Class 701 had recently completed the Dig Project – a third-annual collaboration with the Menlo School in Northern California in which students each dig up a cubic foot of earth before analyzing the types of animals they found and sharing that data with their collaborative partners. Spiders featured prominently in some of the data, which was a natural connection to NHM’s Spider Pavilion. Plus, spiders are just awesome.

Spider Pavilion Entrance
The start of the exhibit.

The enthusiastic Jesse Daniel (Supervisor of Floor Interpretation, Education & Exhibits) led our Silk Road 4G Field Trip and made a return appearance for this one, too. He showed us the Wolf Spider (who does not use a web to catch prey but rather hunts, like a wolf), the Giant Wood Spider (the largest orb spider in the world and a familiar friend to some of the teachers in Taiwan), the Golden Silk Spider (whose silk is some of the strongest in the world and is thus an important subject of scientific research), and many others. Here is an image of a Wolf Spider and a video with Jesse telling the students a little bit about it.

Wolf Spider display
Wolf Spider Display
Wolf Spider hanging upside down.
Here is a Wolf Spider hanging upside down under a table. They have little claws they use to do this!

Prior to the field trip, the students were given a survey asking what they would want to learn.  Some top responses were, “What kind of food do they eat?”, “Where do they live?” and “How can you tell the difference between a male and female spider?” Jesse tackles the latter question in this video clip:

“Did you know that?”

Bringing the Taiwan students so close to many species of spiders, mostly from North America, from thousands of miles away was another testament to the power of technology and our series of 4G Field Trips (although our field trips with NHM have taken advantage of their new building-wide TWC wifi). Here at Banyan Global Learning we continue to find ways to create a dynamic distance learning curriculum. We find compelling connections to our classroom content and use video teleconferencing technology to leverage opportunities such as this.

Golden Silk spider
Students looking at a Golden Silk spider.

Special thanks goes to the Natural History Museum and to Jesse Daniel for once again providing our students in Taiwan with the opportunity to visit this amazing facility and learn about these wonderful creatures.  As Jesse explains here (which was probably the most important take-away for the students), spiders are critical to the balance of our ecosystem.  So please, next time think twice before you smash one of these furry friends – instead, scoop him up and put him somewhere where he can to continue to benefit the environment.

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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.


Celebrating Holidays While Teaching Abroad

Holidays can be a difficult time to be away from home while teaching abroad.  But, just as holidays are a special time of year that bring family and friends together, it’s a great opportunity to share your culture with your students and create lasting bonds in your classroom. The following report about celebrating holidays while teaching abroad is from BGL‘s Teacher Jackie and Teacher Becky.


Xin nian kuai le!  Happy Chinese New Year!  While teaching in Taiwan, it has been an amazing experience to share American holiday traditions with our students, and to learn more about their culture through celebrations. Teacher Jackie, normally a Distance Learning teacher for IDEEL, was fortunate enough to be on campus to celebrate Halloween with her students.

Across campus, the holiday was more spirited than expected, from learning about spider webs to participating in a trick-or-treat parade.

ImageSome of the older students were able to make connections with a similar Taiwanese holiday, Tomb Sweeping Day, which celebrates familial ancestors.  Though students do not normally celebrate Halloween outside of school, their parents gladly dress them in costumes for school – or even to go shopping or out to eat! Generally, the costumes are not scary but rather as cute as possible.  Most girls dress up as princesses, and the most popular costume for boys seemed to be superheroes.


Soon after, Thanksgiving comes to town. Teacher Becky had a wonderful time teaching students about turkeys, and other Thanksgiving food. To her surprise, even after much discussion, pictures and videos, many students had no idea what a turkey was, mistaking it for a big chicken. A true cultural exchange was born when the ensuing discussion about traditional American foods evolved into one about traditional Taiwanese foods. Students also made some great paper turkeys and shared what they are thankful for in their lives.  Both the students and the teachers had fun sharing in the Thanksgiving holiday traditions.


And of course, the season of holiday celebrations would not be complete without Christmas.  Teacher Becky found that many students celebrated Christmas at home with their families, so it was easy to get them into the holiday spirit. Decorating each room with a Christmas tree, Teacher Becky made sure that all of her students had a visit from Santa.  Sharing her own family’s tradition, she also had each of her students make an ornament for the class tree.


Though the magic of Christmas captivated the students, they were even more intrigued by snow, which most of them have never experienced or even seen before.  The students really enjoyed learning about snow and making their own snowmen, with the help of Santa Claus, of course.


Back in Los Angeles with her Distance Learning teacher hat on again, Teacher Jackie challenged her 8th grade students to create “twister carols” by rewriting lyrics to a famous Christmas carol.  Meanwhile,

Image5th graders went on a 4G field trip to The Grove, a famous shopping mall in Los Angeles that decks their halls to the max for Christmas. Here they got to see first hand some of the most prominent American Christmas traditions, compliments of Teacher Seth’s interviews with local shoppers.  They also examined the winter wonderland that much of America was experiencing by writing descriptive poems about various images of snow.  The results were impressive despite the lack of personal experience with snow.

With the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration, 7th grade Distance Learning students made connections to the recent New Year celebration in America by writing resolutions.  Below is an example of the fine work that was produced by 701 student, Dylan.


Meanwhile, in Taiwan, Teacher Becky celebrated the New Year with her Kindergarten classes after discussing the similarities and differences between the American and Taiwanese New Year traditions.  Teacher Becky found that in both Taiwan and America, eating certain foods is believed to bring wealth and good fortune – in Taiwan, it’s fish, while in the American South, it’s collard greens and black-eyed peas.  Both cultures also share a tradition of money for the New Year, with Taiwanese exchanging red envelopes with gifts of money. The students really enjoyed sharing their traditional dragons with Teacher Becky to welcome in the New Year.

Celebrating American holidays with students in foreign countries is such a special and rewarding experience.  To see students embrace American traditions with enthusiasm and wonder, while also sharing their own rich holiday traditions, is an opportunity unique to teaching and traveling abroad.  In what ways do you celebrate holidays with your students?

California Parks Department: Best Virtual Field Trip Ever! A BGL Review

California Parks Department’s PORTS delivered the best virtual field trip we’ve ever taken here at Banyan Global Learning.  PORTS is made up of awesome rangers in awesome ranger hats who provide free virtual fields trips utilizing green screen studios and a roving EduGator.  What’s not to love?

A PORTS EduGator enables Park Rangers to do virtual field trips from any parks location.  Photo courtesy of the California Parks Department.

A PORTS EduGator enables Park Rangers to do virtual field trips from any parks location. Photo courtesy of the California Parks Department.

The following review is from Teacher Seth:

Our 4G Field Trips are revolutionizing the way we do distance learning.  As we plan these trips int he future, we look to emulate the rangers at PORTS (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students). Our virtual field trip to Anza Borrego Desert State Park was perfectly paced and had an engaging balance of teacher-student interaction, historical realia and digital media. And this is just one of their many programs – they have an EduGator that can perform virtual field trips via satellite from each of the 268 CA State Parks. And did we mention it’s free?!

Anza Borrego is big enough to fit all other 267 CA State Parks inside of it, so Ranger Luann did the program from inside her green screen studio so we could cover more area and content.

Ranger Luann in her green screen studio at Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

Ranger Luann in her green screen studio at Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

She amazed our students by highlighting the behavioral and physical adaptations of plants and animals.

She showed us fossils and skeletons that dated back to prehistoric times.

Ranger Luann with the skull of a sabertooth tiger.

Ranger Luann with the skull of a sabertooth tiger.

She had fun with the green screen and made parts of her body disappear.

The Invisible Ranger

The Invisible Ranger

And then she took us on a tour of her studio, teaching about the magic behind her techy trickery.  She zoomed in on Google Maps and found the school in Taipei!  She loved meeting our students – they were the first international students PORTS had ever worked with.

Ranger Luann zooms in to find our school on Google Maps.

Ranger Luann zooms in to find our school on Google Maps.

All in all, it was amazing!  Perhaps this student thank you letter says it best:

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