Visiting Scholar Enriches 8th Grade’s Study of China

Moses Brown School eighth graders in Jon Gold’s history class recently had the opportunity to work with China scholar Isaac Kardon. His research on China’s foreign policy and “law of the sea” overlaps with much of the content of MB’s eighth grade China unit. Isaac is senior fellow at the Washington, DC-based Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, but has also worked for the Naval War College in Newport, RI, where he lives.

Jon and a handful of his history students had attended a roundtable discussion with Isaac at Brown University in March. After their initial connection, Jon planned Kardon’s session with the full class on MB’s campus.

“This kind of opportunity supports the work we do in eighth grade history to help students think critically about the world and engage with high-level, high-stakes questions,” said Jon.

On April 10, Isaac facilitated a conversation with 15 eighth graders about China’s maritime claims, the changing nature of sovereignty, and China’s foreign policy. The eighth graders asked provocative questions about Taiwan and America’s relations with China and also participated in an exercise on China’s maritime claims.

The students really enjoyed the exchange and found Isaac’s guided discussion to be a great supplement to what they had learned in class already.

“I thought it was great to hear from him about China and their expansion into the South China Sea,” said Lucy K. “I really liked how he utilized a map that China made a really long time ago to tell the story of their expansion.”

Another discussion participant, Luke W., was very grateful for the chance to converse with Isaac and the engaging way the group conversation was conducted, with students being allowed to “ask questions as we went, instead of all of them being at the end of the discussion. This allowed for much more relevant questions and really made everyone feel engaged.”

Teddy D. also enjoyed the discussion, adding that “it was really cool to hear about Isaac’s research and learn how historians and scholars work to help think about complex issues like China’s foreign policy.”