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Sinri Elementary encourages kids to get hands dirty

After SNU opened a branch nearby, school’s fate began to improve
Oct 29,2016
Students at Sinri Elementary in Pyeongchang County, Gangwon, dig up sweet potatoes and peanuts they planted a few months ago. The school emphasizes hands-on experience with its diverse educational programs. [PARK JIN-HO]
At Sinri Elementary School in Pyeonchang County, Gangwon, students gather in the school garden to dig up sweet potatoes they planted a few months ago. As one of them pulls up a sweet potato as big as his arm, students let out peels of excited laughter.

“We were looking at shutting down the school because we only had a few students,” said Lee Hee-jung, a teacher at the school, “but things have changed dramatically since Seoul National University built a campus nearby.”

Just as Lee said, Sinri Elementary School saw a significant drop in its number of students from roughly 500 in the 1980s to a total of 15 in 2007, and was therefore expected to shut down. But things turned around in 2014 when SNU’s Pyeongchang campus, which includes a research institute for green biotechnology and a graduate school of international agricultural technology, was constructed 2.5 kilometers (1.55 miles) from the elementary school.

A total of 335 researchers and faculty members of SNU’s Pyeongchang campus brought with them their children, most of whom transferred to Sinri Elementary School. A total of 45 students are currently registered as students of Sinri Elementary School, including six new students who transferred to the school this year.

“SNU students helped with our students’ academics,” said Lee. Around 10 members of the university’s volunteer group, Global Inter-culturing and Volunteering, have visited every winter since 2014 to teach English, science and mathematics. The school has also opened after-school programs focusing on a variety of extracurricular activities, including taekwondo, skiing, skating, swimming, violin, ocarina, ukulele, Korean traditional dance and magic tricks.

The variety of the school’s educational programs has reduced the need for private education among its students. Parents are less likely to be financially burdened as a result. Moreover, all educational programs at Sinri Elementary School are sponsored by Gangwon Provincial Office of Education and Pyeongchang County Office, as they appointed the school for their project ‘Building Hopes for Small Schools.’ The project aims to develop small schools in Pyeongchang’s rural areas by implementing curricula to fit the area.

“I’m happy to see my daughter enjoy her school life,” said Kim Hyun-hee, the mother of a third-grader. “I’m also satisfied that the school provides various educational programs for my daughter.”

Every November, students of Sinri Elementary School make kimchi for the winter and share it with the elder residents in the neighborhood, many of whom live alone. And this is just one example of the school’s emphasis on hands-on experience.

“I went on one or two school trips a year at my previous school,” said Bae Joo-eun, a sixth-grader who transferred to Sinri three years ago, “but I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone on trips since I came to this school, and I’m having a lot of fun.”

“We’re trying to improve our educational environment according to the growing number of students we’re accepting,” said the school principal, Kim Geun-hong, “and we hope to keep working with SNU to diversify our educational programs.”

BY PARK JIN-HO [kim.yuna1@joongang.co.kr]
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