A Year of Literary Achievements at ISF

In the 2021-22 Academic Year, ISF students unleashed their imagination and literary prowess through writing competitions, weaving stories and tales, and even publishing their own books. Let us celebrate our students’ creativity and proud accomplishments on their literary journey!

An Aspiring Poet

Congratulations to Grade 2 student Coco Nakamura, an aspiring poet who won in the 2022 Hong Kong Young Writers Award (Poetry Group 1). This prestigious competition is held annually, attracting over 1,200 entries from approximately 200 schools last year, with entry categories covering fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and cover art. It aims to foster excellence in English writing and creativity by providing students with the opportunity to showcase their expressive talents.

An avid reader, Coco was fascinated by a book on poetry she was reading during the winter break. Writing on this year’s theme, Tales from the Mogao Grottoes, she began to research on the ancient caves in Dunhuang, Gansu province, China. “I studied the pictures very closely, imagining myself inside the picture, hearing the noises, smelling the smells, and looking at the colors. That’s how I got to start thinking of the main characters.”

What Coco found most challenging was shaping her draft into the form of a pantoum. With a vivid narrative, her poem depicts Empress Wu Zetian’s visit to town, interwoven with fantasies of the forgotten Library Cave in the Mogao Grottoes. “My poem was fantasy but I didn’t want it to be all fantasy, so I added in a real person.”

Coco was happy that she won, though this was her first time entering a writing competition and she was not expecting it. She also has some advice, “One thing that everyone should know about going to a writing competition is that hard work and lots of effort pay off.” She hopes to keep writing poems and stories, and try her best as far as possible.

Coco’s poem is titled “The Day the Empress Inspected the Town”

The Winter Olympic Spirit

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics touched the hearts of many people and Grade 8 student Sara Ng was one of them. Inspired by the Olympic spirit and her love for Chinese culture, Sara clinched first prize in an essay writing competition organized by the newspaper Ta Kung Pao on the theme, “How Hong Kong Students See the Winter Olympics”.

Entering the competition was not only an opportunity to practice her writing skills, but also enriched Sara’s understanding of Chinese culture. As she described in her winning piece, “During the countdown to the opening ceremony, the last second coincides with Lichun (立春), the beginning of spring, which signifies that we are welcoming the arrival of spring with friends from all around the world.”

Sara knew that the ceremony would be a stunning spectacle when she learned that it would be directed by the acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou. Snowflakes representing all the participating delegations were the centerpiece of the ceremony. In Chinese, snowflake translates as “snow flower” (雪花), which Sara borrows in the title of her essay, “A Flower that Never Withers” (《永不凋零的花》). This year’s Winter Olympics have ended, but the spirit and legacy endure.

Sara believes that writing is about expressing one’s true feelings and sentiments. With this being her first writing competition, winning came as a joyful surprise. During visits to Beijing with her family, Sara found herself captivated by the sights and traditional architecture steeped in history and culture. She hopes to keep writing in her leisure as an avenue for expressing herself, and to promote Chinese culture through her words.

Sara’s drawing illustrates the unity of people across all nations

Into the Realm of Science Fiction

As part of the IB Middle Years Programme, Grade 10 students continued to develop their interdisciplinary learning, combining perspectives and synthesizing knowledge from different disciplines to create new meaning and understanding. The Science Fiction unit culminated in the publication of Énouement, a collection of thirteen highly inventive stories intended to impart “the bittersweet feeling of arriving at the future, seeing how things turned out, but not being able to tell your past self.”

Our young authors explored the futures written across the universe, combining a diverse range of Sciences and English expressionism, and artfully expressed some of their wildest ideas through words and illustrations. The stories portray a series of prophecies on heroes and extinction, nanobots, terraforming of Mars, genetically modified viruses, bioweapons, mass destruction… Intertwined in these catastrophic prophecies are artworks created by Grade 10 Visual Arts students, each inspired by a story and effected with full creative freedom.

Reflecting on their undertaking, the student editorial team wrote, “In the process of editing and publishing this book, we were able to put together a team with a united goal and a passion for creation.” From apocalyptic worlds to adventures in outer space, the fictitious tales seek to explore our shared humanity through the examination of challenges posed at the edge of scientific possibility.

This collection of bittersweet tales by the Class of 2024 will be available for circulation in the Secondary Library after the summer holiday

Introduction to Latin

At ISF, students have the unique opportunity to study classical languages such as Ancient Greek and Latin under the tutelage of Shuyuan faculty. Just graduated from ISF, Grade 12 student Tatiana Zhang had her first taste in Latin in Grade 7 as a co-curricular activity that soon blossomed into a full passion. Intrigued by the legacy of ancient Rome, she took up Ancient Greek in Grade 9, and studied Latin as one of her subjects for the IB Diploma Programme. Tatiana is not only an aficionado of the classics, but also the proud author of a published book, Introductory Latin for Kids: A Straightforward Course for Young Beginners.

A promising young scholar, Tatiana is well aware of the challenges that meet many novice learners and is impelled to write a book to help others overcome the obstacles on their journey to mastering Latin and deciphering all its mysteries. Structured with 24 chapters, her book starts from the basic Roman alphabet and numerals, essential terminology for Latin verbs, to accessible grammar points, vocabulary lists and exercises complete with answers ideal for self-directed study.

In her book, she wrote, “I wish to share my passion and love for the subject and all that it encompasses with my peers, in the hope that, someday, they too come to appreciate Rome in its magnificent entirety. I find the greatest beauty of the classics lies in their timelessness.” Tatiana hopes that after finishing the book, students will have the confidence to read more advanced Latin texts and gain an appreciation for this rich and beautiful language.

Book donated to the Shuyuan collection by the Zhang’s family

Through the Eyes of Primary Students

Last year, the ISF Chinese Cultural Center and the Primary School Chinese Department hosted a writing competition on the theme “Love is all around the world”. Results were announced in October and outstanding pieces were selected with Awards of Excellence and Creativity presented to winning students.

The Early Morning Woods (《清晨的樹林》) is a collection of 148 poems, pieces of writing, and drawings by Foundation Year to Grade 5 students. It offers us a glimpse of the students’ voyage of growth, reflecting their yearning and optimism deep down. In the book, Dr. Levi Gao portrayed his vision of the woods at dawn, where he saw students “countless and conscientious, enchanted by the early morning woods. With eyes wide, they delve into the wonders of nature.”

The virtues of Ren and Ai pervade the pages of this volume. In one poem, a student wrote, “Love is the sky and the earth, nature, and the connection among all things in the world.” In the poem “The Early Morning Woods”, our young poet shows us how love is passed from the sun to the flowers and grass, to butterflies, trees, leaves, birds, and frogs… love is breathed into every corner of the woods. From the writing, the reader also learns that Ai can often be manifested in the smallest act – “Love is giving your seat to an old lady on the bus when you really want to sit.”

Pick up a copy from Yidan Chinese Cultural Center to ride with our students’ journey and discover nature’s revelation to you.

The textured earth brown cover is reminiscent of tree bark, inviting the reader into the woods.

Up in the Cloud

Classroom in the Cloud (《雲上的課堂》) holds between its pages the profound thoughts of Secondary students during the period of e-learning when lessons were conducted online and learning took place virtually in the cloud.

This poetry collection was published under the guidance of the Chinese Cultural Center and Secondary Chinese teachers. As Dr. Levi Gao wrote in the book’s preface, the essence of poetry is for the writer to express his or her perceptions freely and imaginatively. During e-learning, the cloud became a platform for knowledge exploration. Through writing, students explored the themes of friendship, love, change, time and space, the seasons, and life.

A labor of love, this volume includes 128 poems and verses written in Chinese, allowing the reader to understand more of the innermost thoughts and feelings of our student writers during an unusual period of time. In place of travels and holidays abroad, the young poets embraced nature. In one poem, the student wrote of traversing the hills in Hong Kong; another described the scent of fresh dew in the mountains after the rain. Seeking solace and nourishment in the countryside awakened students’ senses to see, hear, smell and feel differently, in the most delicate way.

This collection came to completion in June, just before the summer holiday, bringing the year to a celebratory end (copies will be available at the Secondary Library after the summer holiday)