Student Focus: Meet Year 9 Student & ‘World Scholar’ Natasha Shen

Written by: Janelle Garrett, Lower Secondary Coordinator & Andrea Griego, Student Support Coordinator (Primary)

Natasha Shen started strong this academic year competing with her partner last September at Yale University in the global “Tournament of Champions” for the World Scholar’s Cup. World Scholars’ Cup is a prestigious academic competition that takes place at a regional level all around the world. Students compete here in Shanghai and are able to qualify to participate at further rounds that are considered “Global Rounds.” They enter as a team of three and work together as that team before and during the competition. There are quizzes, debates and writing competitions during the course of a two-day regional bout.

Natasha graciously answered some questions about her World Scholar’s Cup experience:

When did you started doing World Scholar’s Cup as an activity?
I started in Year 7 and I thought it was an interesting academic program because it wasn’t just debating, you could do writing and take tests if you’re good at that. It’s a good opportunity to meet new people. Public speaking can be scary at first, but in World Scholar’s Cup the debate is friendly and lower risk. It isn’t just about winning and losing, you get feedback and advice to learn how to be better, and over time it gets easier and more enjoyable.

How did you get to compete in the World Scholar’s Cup Tournament of Champions at Yale University in the US? 
Tanya, Sophia and I went to Athens this summer and competed in the Global Rounds. We did pretty well, better than we did at Regionals. To be honest, the Shanghai Round was the most competitive of all the rounds, people were very serious, hardcore about winning. We live in a city and country with so many brilliant students.

So how was Yale and the Tournament of Champions? It was much more competitive than Shanghai and the Global Round in Athens—there were brilliant scholars from all over the world, especially from Asia, and these people were very serious especially since they were missing a week of school.

I made friends from Israel, Indonesia, Singapore, the United States and tons of other countries and now they are part of my network. I loved the Scholar’s Ball (disco and talk) and also liked hearing the college panel with Yale students on preparing for college. It really made me think about my future and I feel I have more ideas about things I want to do moving forward so that I can reach my goals. I just loved being on Yale campus and the program also offered a tour in Boston of Harvard and MIT. It was great just being there and soaking up the energy of the place.

And finally, how did you do at Yale?
We did really, really well—we came in 20th in the World out of 300 teams in the Junior Division! These were all top teams. Coming in 20th Overall was based on our combined score for: Debate, Scholar’s Challenge (general knowledge tests on six subjects) and a Writing Competition.

When Natasha is not busy being a brilliant ‘World Scholar’, she spends her time negotiating solutions for complex global issues as a delegate at Model United Nations conferences, solving problems with her teammates at High Four Mathematics and Science Competitions, playing team sports like volleyball, basketball, rugby, and football, or she can be found rocking out on the guitar

with her bandmates. She still finds time to do her homework.

Congratulations Natasha and good luck to all of our brilliant YCIS World Scholars Cup Team who will be competing in the upcoming World Scholar’s Cup regionals in Shanghai!

Staff Focus: Matt Uffindall

Written by Roseline Yang, Community Relations Officer

Matt Uffindall comes from rural North Yorkshire in England and I had the pleasure to welcome him at the beginning of August before school started for the students. He came with his girlfriend directly from Qatar where he taught for 5 years in an international school. He was recently appointed as YCIS Pudong’s Athletic Director for next school year, taking over from Lennart van Vlerken who will head to new horizons. I’m really excited to get to know more about Matt and hope you are too, if you haven’t had the opportunity to interact with him!

Let’s meet Matt Uffindall!

Salut Matt, ça va? Tu as passé de bonnes vacances? (Everytime Matt sees me, he greets me in French and then we continue in English but I really like it because it reminds me of the variety of languages spoken by our students at YCIS.)

Oui, oui! Merci (laughs) – I went to Japan to ski!

What do you like to do in your free time?

Sport of course – I play football and rugby here in Shanghai, I am playing for a couple of teams which is great to keep fit but also a great way to meet and socialize with people.

Traveling and discovering new places is my other pastime. I have already been to 47 countries across all 5 continents in the world. I have a special map at home where I scratch every place I have visited. Every country has its specialty and I love to try new and different things. Whenever I go to a new country, I like to learn some basic words and sentences to be able to communicate with the people in that host country. I guess that this is because I used to go to the South of France and Austria to visit my relatives every school holidays.

Oh! That’s how you learnt a bit of French! So, you can also speak German? What were you doing over there?

Just tourist talk, just enough to order food and get directions. What I loved there was to climb mountains during the summer and ski during the winter! I have just been to Japan for Chinese New Year Holidays – in Niseiko. It’s a volcano so there were slopes around the mountains. If you like to ski, Japan is the number one place  to go because you can have up to 12 metres of powder snow. The winds from the Artic create that powdery snow. This is better than Canada, US or France.

So would you say that it was your preferred place for skiing?

No, every place has its charm. I love skiing in France for the beautiful weather (sunshine) and for the food (Hmm…French raclette). What is special about France is that mountains are much higher so before you can go and ski you need to drive up to the mountains for more than 25 minutes for example in  Alberville (near Geneva). What is special about Austria is that the mountains are close to the village. You have wooden log cabins in the landscape and delicious hot chocolate like in Salzburg.

In Europe, you can ski for miles and miles, whereas when I went to Japan recently, you go up and come down through the trees.

I read in your description that you like all types of sport – well I can see ski and surf from your Wechat profile. You mention that you competed at a high level? Which sports?

I played football, cricket and rugby at a good level at Centre of Excellence in the UK, cricket at Lords in London, and rugby at an international level in Qatar.

Ok – let’s move to some questions related to my favorite topic: Education, YCIS spirit and YCIS community.

What is your education background? Why did you choose this career field? Did do you anything before teaching?

I have always wanted to become a teacher, probably because I have a family of teachers: my mom, my aunt, … are all teachers. It is my 14th year of teaching this year. I chose PE because I love sports and I thought that having the possibility to do everything I love every day is kind of great! Being able to see students improve, or take up a new sport is great. It can help them so much throughout the rest of their school life.


I completed my PGCE in Secondary PE from Leeds Metropolitan University and taught in the UK for seven years before I moved to the small state of Qatar in the Middle East, where I taught for 5 years. I am also teaching Geography in IGCSE.

This is why you know so much about wind directions, soil, landscape, etc. Sports and World Traveler specialist: great combination for passion and career! So, why did you choose to come to Shanghai and YCIS?

Actually, I am the one that was chosen! I was approached by a recruiting agency who introduced me to YCIS and after my interview, I was convinced: Nice leadership team, nice school-size with a student-centered approach and most importantly, it sounded like an environment where you can grow and expand. It was also a good time to experience something new.

True! How have you adapted to Shanghai? 你会说中文了吗?

Yi dian dian. I should probably study more but it has been very easy to adapt to Shanghai as this is a cosmopolitan city where you can easily live without speaking much Chinese! Although I try, I have found the language hard to pick up.

What about YCIS? How have you adapted and what do you enjoy at YCIS?

I  think I have adapted quite easily. All very smoothly. The culture and attitudes towards learning, and the breadth of experiences throughout the staff make it a great place to work.

Being a new team with Lennart and Tracy, we were able to be as efficient as we can with what we have and it’s working very well since we have many sport teams playing and practicing during a week.

Not to mention the students who have a great attitude towards learning and our parents that are all very supportive. Sport can play such an important role in everyone’s life so we try to embrace it and make the most of it.

Awesome! Let’s finish with one last question about your position next year and your vision for the Sport programme.

Looking forward, I honestly think that we can build on some excellent work that has already been put in place. We want to continue to grow the brilliant CCA programme that has been established, and then from there also develop the academic courses with IB Sports Science. It’s an exciting time to be involved in sport at YCIS!

Girls Scouts at World Thinking Day

Written by Roseline Yang, Community Relations Officer

On Saturday, March 3, YCIS Girl Scouts Troops participated in their annual Girl Scout World Thinking Day, an exciting event gathering 400 Girl Scouts from schools in Shanghai to do some activities making them reflect on a specific topic. This year, the topic was “Impact”. The students get prepared for this event a month before to create pins for the highlight of the event: “Swap” time, where every participant exchange with other Girl Scouts from other troops the pins that they have created with their troops.

40 students and 16 adults from YCIS took part of the event. Everyone was excited to attend the event. Parents and students were happy to share what they learn out of it with you!

Parents Perspective

  • What was your role and what did you think of this Girl Scouts inter-school event?

I was a parent helper – I was a parent helper – I stayed with my daughter’s troop like in a field trip but not actively and fully engaged in helping GS supporting activities as I’m a working mom.

Participating this event is a great experience not only for the kids but also for the adults. The sense of protecting and loving the world is to be taught at early young age so that they have senses of awareness and be responsible to world. The documentary about Plastic Ocean let us how serious the situation is. Apart from this, the exchange with other schools is also very worthwhile to the kids. They need to build up the courage to ask and share. I really loved this event and will definitely join again next year. Probably as a volunteer! – Supamard Yu, Faye’s momY3A

I was a parent volunteer – helping on the third floor with the YCIS-led activity with values labeled garbage pick-up game and discussion.

It was great to meet and work with people from other schools in Shanghai and specially to get to know YCIS Puxi parent who briefed us how to lead the activity. It was also such an exciting day since I was quite nervous at the beginning but after the first and second round of practice with the help of other moms and also the support of students, I managed to lead the third and fourth rounds all by myself, and in English! A big achievement for me! Last but not least, I got to teach some fun Chinese games to the other troops whose Chinese was not as fluent as our YCIS children. It was a great language and culture learning opportunity. – Shirley Jing, Anne (Y2B)’s mom

I am a Brownies Girl Scout co-troop leader with other 3 moms (Year 3 students) – Guided by Jutta our Girls Scouts Coordinator for YCIS, I was leading my own Girls Scouts and accompanying parents through the whole event: from the beginning to the end with pick-up point at Regency Park Campus, making sure all lunch boxes and coats are kept together when we arrived at the school-host place and of course going through the schedule of activities!

This was not my first time and neither was it for my daughters, so we will naturally have the tendency to compare with previous years, and let’s say (hihi-small laughs) that it was a bit less impactful, probably because there were less activities or because topics chosen were a déjà vu by YCIS students. That said, this is always a great opportunity for the students to interact with other students of other schools and the highlight of the event is usually the swap that the girls enjoy the most! – Carmen Ling, Julie (Y6A) and Sophie’s (Y3C) mom

Student’s side – Julie Lui (Y6A ) Junior Troop

What is the aim of the World Thinking Day and why Girls Scouts are attending it every year?
Girls Scouts started a Thinking Day at the beginning around 1926, but as Girls Scouts extended worldwide, it became World Thinking Day. It’s about connecting with other Girl Scouts from troop while discovering new things through activities.

 What were the activities about?
There were mainly 4 themes:

  • Understand about the impact of music in the world: drum beats & hula dance
  • Understand about the impact of plastic pollution on our planet through video clips
  • Understand about the impact of Morals & Religion around the world through dress-up games, pins on world map as well as defining the meaning of family for us.
  • Understand about concepts & values and reflect upon the ones we think are the most important to us.

What did you learn?
We learn that our impact can change the world. For example, through the videos, we learnt about the importance of stop wasting and re-using instead! 

What did you enjoy the most during this event?
I like the swaps, because we prepared for this part of the event and it’s exciting to get new stuff.I like doing the dance and the drums even more!We learnt about African music. Different beats and how it spread all around the world. – Runkel Lia Y5C

I like doing the dance and swaps and the part of YCIS with the mask –  I thought it was fun. – Edmonds Paloma Y5C

Your mom was also at the event. Do you think it was useful? Would you recommend other parents to join?
I did not get to see her because she was with my sister’s GS troop but as we were walking home, we were discussing about the event and we could exchange ideas.

Yes, I would encourage parents to join at least once and participate to some activities. Sometimes, when we are tired, we do not feel like explaining all the things we have done during the day because there is so much to tell about.

If you would like to see more photos, feel free to click here to our photo gallery! Thank you to all parents who shared their photos!

If you would like to know more about Girls Scouts or get more involved, feel free to contact Jutta Petznick, our YCIS Girl Scout Coordinator at:

Building a Wellbeing Curriculum at YCIS

Edited by Roseline Yang, Community Relations Officer

At YCIS, one of our main focus points this year is developing a robust Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) programme, which we call ‘Wellbeing’. We believe that the success of its implementation will be based on the partnership between school and home.

The programme will run through the ECE, Primary and Secondary sections to ensure continuity throughout a students’ time at YCIS. We are focusing on developing an accurate, age-appropriate and culturally sensitive curriculum to help our children and young people not only excel in their academics, but also in their personal, social and emotional lives.

Background and summary for this school year
We set up a Child Protection Committee across all four YCIS campuses two years ago, and as a follow up, we have continued this year to develop a wellbeing curriculum, taking into consideration input from our parents and the whole school community.

We invited world-renowned CIS Consultant, Susie March in October to advise our school on CSE curriculum, deliver training and workshops for our staff and parents.

From October until now, our school has been continuing to work on developing the Wellbeing curriculum, which will be rolled out to all students next academic year. We will introduce this to our parents at the May Community Forums. We have also ordered books and resources for students, parents, and teachers and will have these on display for parents to browse through. For Secondary students, we plan to introduce this to students at a whole school assembly on May 7.

Our technology department introduced “Screenagers” to our students and parents to offer a broader perspective of the challenges and opportunities that technology offers and how we as a school community could better support our students at home and at school. All our students from Year 4 to Year 13 together with their class teachers and including our parent community have been able to see the screening and start a discussion regarding the digital age in which we are living. The school has come up with some guidelines but is eager to continue to develop them together with the school community.

In February, we invited counseling expert Catherine Humpherys for a parent workshop to empower them to support their child to maintain healthy relationships, understanding negative messages through social media as well as teen sexuality into long-term commitment. There was also a section about grooming and the importance for parents to define what is good touch or a bad touch with their children.

We are also doing Student Support Surveys every other week for all Secondary students.  This helps to promote student self-awareness regarding their own wellbeing, as well as gives our Secondary School Counsellor Ms Leedy and University Guidance Officer Mr. Gartz an opportunity to check-in with students and offer support to those who may be struggling in various areas.

We encourage you to check out our parent/student support blog where we gathered all related information. Feel free to click here if you would like to join or suggest a workshop.

Student Voice: Make A Difference

Written by: Costanza Cavalleri, Y12A Student

The MAD Run first started a couple of years ago after being inspired by the Terri Fox Run, whose goal was to raise money and awareness for cancer. The goal of the MAD Run changed last year when the money raised from the run went to Hand-in-Hand. The hospice aims to help terminally ill patients feel the most comfortable during their last moments.

I took on the MAD Run this year because I have always loved what the MAD Run stood for. Being an IB student with a CAS Project requirement and support from ACAMIS, I took the opportunity to organize this event. The MAD Run was a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and do something which would impact a larger community than just my own. Along with the MAD Run event this year, a small group of students and I went to visit the hospice, Hand-in-Hand. We went to the hospice to meet up with the patients and their family, to learn more about what a hospice was and where all the money raised would go, and we left with a greater understanding of how important family and loved ones are. The experience was eye opening and very heartwarming making me and the rest of the MAD Run team even more motivated to organize a successful event.

Learning a lot from my brother’s experience organizing the run last year, the team and I have been collaborating in hopes to be even more successful than last year. I also hope to showcase the importance of hospices and raise awareness for all the happiness and comfort they bring to their patients.

Year 6 Science Fair

Written by: DU Zhuoyan, Y6C student

Before Chinese New Year, we held a Science Fair at YCIS. I was the journalist for this event, and I was in charge of interviewing and photography. The Year 6 students were busy with preparation for over one month prior to the Science Fair.

All of us arrived at the Gym at 10:15am. After everything was set up, we were waiting for the visitors to come. The Gym became so busy when the visitors came. So many people were looking around and the students were busy with introducing their own work. I looked around and noticed there was no visitor at Faye’s desk at that time. I decided to start my interview with Faye: “What is the biggest challenge of this experiment?”

Faye answered: “The egg became very dirty after soaking in the white vinegar. It was disgusting. There was no proper tool for me to pull it out and it was a big challenge for me.”

I interviewed Xiangyu from Y6A after that: “I would like to know more about your experiment; did you make it on your own?

Xiangyu answered proudly,” I made it on my own.” How amazing!

I interviewed some parents after that. One parent told me, “I was amazed by the experiment called How to Make an Apple Darker; it was interesting”.

I asked another parent: “Do you like the idea of letting your child participate in activities like this?”

“Yes, the children can show their scientific ability”. That is right. This was the central meaning of the fair.

All the experiments displayed in the Science Fair were excellent. They all had different characteristics. The students hosted their teachers, parents and classmates warmly; and presented the stages of their experiments in great detail. The students took this opportunity to display their studies and projects. I think this event was very meaningful, and I hope we can hold more events like it.

Mathematical Growth and Understanding for ECE Children

Written by Veronica Martin (ECE Coordinator)

Shapes, numbers, addition, subtraction, big and small so many different mathematical terms you can hear as you wander around the ECE building. As the children play and have fun they are also cementing strong mathematical concepts they will need as they grow.

Imagine a child building a bridge to drive the car over, a child waiting their turn at the snakes and ladders game or a child painting a butterfly. All these play activities are grounded in mathematical ability, balancing the blocks and making them even to allow a bridge to stand, or knowing whose turn is next or how many moves you need when the dice has been thrown. Butterflies are symmetrical, and the children demonstrate this understanding in their paintings.

When does a child understand that numbers are not just a nice rhythm but are a product?

Many children can count higher than 20, when you say the numbers out loud it becomes a rhythm, 1,2,3,4,5… Using toys and real concrete items the Teachers aim to help all children to understand that a number is a product. If you have 4 cars, 4 balls, or 4 friends, the number 4 is always the same. Reinforcing these types of messages in many different ways is what adds to a child’s understanding of different mathematical concepts.

Exploring shapes and measuring items in many different forms builds mathematical concepts in the play area, whether inside or outside. Children measure with rulers or tapes and mark down the measurement, then they may discuss with their friends which measurement is the biggest or smallest. This is a simple activity but one that encourages children to use mathematical language in their daily learning. All children are encouraged to explore shapes in songs, what they see in their environment and what they can create themselves. When children are encouraged to learn using all their five senses, then the learning is more likely to be cemented within their brains, allowing them to slowly build upon each interaction to form a strong foundation in Mathematics.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Week

Written by: Danielle Thal, Secondary Head of Science

Recently,  students and teachers at Century Park campus celebrated the contributions that Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) have made to our world. These contributions would not be possible without the collaboration of people from different fields across the world, and STEM week emphasized this teamwork.

On Monday, students worked together by house to answer trivia questions. Green house took first place but all students could be seen working together to answer some tough questions.

On Tuesday we held our annual Periodic Table Bake Sale, which raised 2500RMB for the Million Tree Project. Many students contributed baked goods and time to run the event. The Year 12 and some select Year 10 students began their exploration of engineering with an explanation of stress analysis. This was to prepare them for their hands-on activity that took place on Friday. The process was one that engineers engage in on a regular basis and gave students a look at what this career is like.


Upper Secondary students were treated to a Skype interview from researcher and TedX presenter Claire Gorrie on Wednesday morning. She emphasized the role that technology has played in the study of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

The YCIS Rush is a favorite of students and took place on Thursday afternoon. The goal was for students to participate in short challenges that required problem-solving and communication skills. Year 6 and 7 students raced around the campus at the end of the day to solve questions for a STEM Scavenger Hunt.

We finished this exciting week with the Scientific and Mathematical Principle Dress up day. We saw interesting representations of concepts such as inequalities and mitosis. We closed the day with a talented group of professionals from the Design Technology and Engineering fields.