Dandelion School Transformation Project,From Environment to Heart I

Located in a heavily polluted industrial area on the outskirts of Beijing, the Dandelion Middle School is the only non-profit organization in the city that now serves the needs of 620 children of poor migrant workers coming from 24 provinces. Having tripled both its student population and programs since its establishment in 2005, the Dandelion School is dedicated to provide quality education to the most disfranchised community in this vast city.

In 2009, Dandelion School has won two prestigious awards: “Model Project” from One Foundation and “Outstanding Non-Governmental Middle School” from China Teachers Development Foundation.

The mastermind behind this innovative and inspiring school is Zheng Hong 鄭洪., a passionate educator with the determination to create a school that nurtures the whole child, his/her academic accomplishment, social skills, and character.

How unusual to have a school to have these mottos on its walls!

  • “自信,乐群,求真,创造。Self-Confidence, Enjoying Community Life, Seeking Truth, and Creativity.”
  • “爱满天下, Let the heaven and earth be filled with love.”
  • “千教万教教人求真,千学万学学做真人。Teach one thousand or ten thousand times; teach students to seek truth. Study one thousand or ten thousand times; learn to become a truthful and authentivc person.”

What an exciting school that dares to embrace the challenge of not only teaching academic skills to the ill-prepared youth but also encouraging them to seek truth and authenticity! How rare to find a school that expects excellence in its performance in education while putting the heart at the center of its operations!

Invited by Principal Zheng Hong 鄭洪 in 2005, Lily Yeh of Barefoot Artists inaugurated the Dandelion School Transformation Project which aimed to transform the school environment and as well the emotional state and mind set of the school community.

From 2005 – 2010, Yeh engaged the entire school, from teachers, students, staff members to volunteers, in a co-creative process to convert a dilapidated and sterile campus into a place filled with color, buoyance and joy through mural painting, mosaic making, and the reshaping of the campus environment.

Her understanding of anchoring the whole art project in the style of Chinese folk art and the work of Ku ShuLan, the immensely influential 20th century Chinese folk artist, deepened students’ respect of their own cultural heritage. Yeh’s comprehensive mosaic program taught our students team work skill and the power of defiant action to create beauty in places broken.

Yeh’s magnificent mosaic phoenix (the mythic feng huang), which she recreated from a Han dynasty tile design, on the stage platform of our campus reminds our students of the riches of Chinese culture and the power of imagination.

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