03 Dec How HKA students created their own App & Map for Sai Kung
Hong Kong Academy is not just another school. This IB school in the picturesque suburb of Sai Kung has a personal, individualised approach to education and a close-knit community. Every Wednesday students don’t go to their normal classes, instead they work on ‘passion projects’ with students from different grades and teachers from different disciplines that share a common interest. For a period of 8 weeks they dive deep into a subject and have the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-life scenario such as: design your own clothes, build your own computers or create a live puppet theatre performance. For hkaFLOW the school also collaborates with local NGOs to initiate projects that benefit the community. One of the projects this year was a cultural mapping project with iDiscover, where a group of 16 students mapped their own neighbourhood through a step-by-step approach involving games, site surveys, interviews, photography, creative writing and design.
The hkaFLOW iDiscover Sai Kung team worked together over a period of 8 weeks. Using a 6-step cultural mapping process the team built a map and app of Sai Kung, highlighting what makes the place special from their perspective. Each step was student led, required specific skill and content input from individuals and included collaboration and reflection. Throughout the project the team pulled on each other’s strengths and interests in order to research, gather and organise the necessary materials, they also worked with various guest contributors. Watch this video to learn more.
- REVEAL – The project started with a fun scavenger hunt around Sai Kung to reconnect with the place get everybody on the same page. Back in the classroom they talked about what makes Sai Kung unique and looked at the characteristics of the neighbourhood through the student’s lens to arrive at a neighbourhood narrative.
- MAP – During the map step, the students followed the narrative and set out to identify the places that make Sai Kung special. They grouped places in different categories: iSee, iShop, iDrink, iEat and Surprise and put them on a map. Next they went out onto the streets to ask locals which places matter to them.The students also met with a guest lecturer and social worker who grew up in Sai Kung and gave them insights into the history and community and sparked their curiosity. In the end there were nearly 50 sites under consideration and with space for only 25 on the final product there were passionate views exchanged. Whilst not everyone agreed, they came to an informed collaborative decision.
“This is not just learning & fun but it made me recognise more, when I walk on the streets of Sai Kung”
– Maggie, grade 8
- CREATE – Time to dive deeper. Students were tasked with creating content on each of the 25 places. They searched online, looked through books, and went out to photograph and interview locals in Sai Kung. Reflecting on output was a big part of this step, to constantly refine their process and approach to interviewing and go back to gather better information.
- DESIGN – In the design step the team synthesized content through writing, drawing and photo editing. At iDiscover they celebrate unity through diversity. Every app&map product reflects the character of the place and the team that has created it. Students are encouraged to create a style of writing and graphic design that reflects own their own personality. It really helped to have a language&literature teacher as part of the team and the HKA group was also lucky to be mentored by HKA parent and graphic designer, Kirsten Ackland, who helped the students bring their vision to life.
“I liked interacting with the people who live here. You got to ask about the history of Sai Kung,
how long they’ve lived here and what they’ve experienced here”
– Jeremy, grade 8
- SHARE – This step was the highlight! The team proudly shared their work with the HKA and Sai Kung community at a pop-up exhibition during the hkaFLOW Celebration of Learning. The project was also featured in a HK Business of Design Week event where the student team presented alongside business and community leaders with an interest in sustaining Hong Kong heritage and tradition.
- CONNECT – The final step of the project, the content was uploaded into the iDiscover App and it is now available for free as a 1 hour walking itinerary that highlights the best of Sai Kung.
This project will be built upon in coming years by exploring narratives and adding layers by a new teams of HKA students. The neighbourhood will keep on changing but the unique spirit of place will always be there. Check out the App and map for yourselves, go out and walk the neighbourhood and rediscover what makes Sai Kung unique!
iDiscover is an NGO founded by Ester van Steekelenburg and Paul Schuttenbelt. As urban planners working in Asia they saw heritage and culture at risk of being lost and wanted to do something about it. The iDiscover mission is to keep heritage alive for a vibrant and viable urban future. It is about the spirit of a place and so they work with locals to record and share knowledge about neighbourhoods across Asia. Through these school- and community projects they aim to preserve the stories and knowledge which illustrate why each place is unique.