10,000 Shovels: China's Urbanization and Development

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5 Reviews
Title10,000 Shovels: China's Urbanization and Development
Publication TypeCurriculum Unit
Year of Publication2006
Subsidiary AuthorsSekiguchi, Rylan
Full Text

Since the late 1970s, China has experienced an unprecedented economic boom, and is today's fastest growing major economy. Its economic reforms of 1978 allowed large amounts of capital to flow within the country, spurring the economy into a period of breakneck growth. Tens of millions of rural Chinese have been drawn into China's cities looking for work, and countless businesses-foreign and domestic-have sprung up in China, each eager to grab a piece of China's 1.3 billion-strong customer base: the world's largest. It is an exciting time. In a country where people starved from widespread poverty only 50 years ago, business is booming like never before. More and more people are living longer, more comfortable lives, and are finally able to afford luxuries like air conditioners, refrigerators, mobile phones, and cars. For them, China's rapid rise is a dream come true-a transition to a modern country.
But not everyone is happy. To make room for development, citizens have been evicted from their homes and forcibly relocated. Lax environmental practices have spawned 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities. The income gap between rural and urban China has widened. Northern China's deserts are expanding and Beijing's water tables have dropped. More people are suffering from diseases related to air pollution, water pollution, and fatty diets. Is China's dream turning into a nightmare? 10,000 Shovels examines the causes and effects of China's development boom, and encourages students to evaluate and appreciate its benefits and costs.
(accessed at: http://spice.stanford.edu/catalog/10000_shovels_chinas_urbanization_and_...)

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World Cultures- China

China has made a major impact on the world throughout history. From the inventions and goods that came from the country during the Age of...

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Average Rating:
5 Reviews

Reviews for 10,000 Shovels: China's Urbanization and Development


Posted By: Jessica Brecht

Posted On: January 10, 2020

Jessica Brecht
Librarian, PreK-6
Aquinas Academy in Greensburg, PA


I reviewed the curriculum called 10,000 Shovels: China’s Urbanization and Economic Development, published by SPICE, the Stanford Program on International and Cross-cultural Education. This is a curriculum that comes with a CD-ROM and is copyrighted 2006, so at this point it is almost 15 years old! I searched Stanford’s website to see if an updated edition was available for purchase, but it wasn’t clear from the website what the copyright date is of the edition for sale. I noticed that the curriculum online is being sold with a DVD rather than a CD-ROM, though, so it is possible that there is a more current edition available.

I wasn’t able to access a computer that could read the accompanying CD-ROM, so I’m not able to comment on the film portion of 10,000 Shovels, but overall the text-based portions of 10,000 Shovels strikes me as a useful teaching resource, despite its age. The main topics of this curriculum are urbanization and economics in China, two disciplines that by their very nature are ever-changing and evolving. Therefore, if educators were to use this curriculum in the classroom, it would be critical for teachers to make sure they fact-checked any statistics published in the resource and provided students with up-to-date information. Ultimately, though, this is a high-quality curriculum that provides detailed lesson plans complete with rubrics, handouts, many discussion questions, a variety of lesson activities, and extensive bibliographies.

10,000 Shovels is designed as a high school curriculum, but I thought it contained some ideas that could be adapted for upper elementary students. For example, there are very good discussion and reflection questions to use with students when teaching about country-to-city migration and the changes that China has seen in its use of food, water, energy, cars, and land. There was one activity in particular that I think I would be fun to do with my sixth graders: compare and contrast an American McDonald’s menu with a Chinese McDonald’s menu. The context for this activity is that China’s urbanization has resulted in high numbers of multinational corporations such as fast food restaurants present in its cities, which significantly contribute to the country’s gross domestic product. This activity includes a discussion guide on the health, cultural, and economic implications of these fast food restaurants. This is an example of just one of the activities in this curriculum that could be adapted to be accessible for junior and senior high school students.


Posted By: Lea Ekeberg

Posted On: December 17, 2019

My name is Lea Ekeberg. I teach Chinese language at the high school level at Winchester Thurston School. I looked at 10,000 Shovels with an eye to whether it might be helpful as a resource to me in planning lessons on China’s development in the Chinese language in my upper-level classes.

My overall takeaway is that it could be a useful resource for me to educate myself, but the level of detail goes far beyond what I could work with in my upper-level language classes. The curriculum is divided into a unit introduction, followed by two lessons. Lesson One is entitled The Effects of China’s Growth. Lesson Two is entitled Activity Collection. Below are the parts that I might be able to use in my classes.

First, in Lesson One, there are a set of handouts, one each on the topics of food, water, energy, cars, and land. Each of these handouts has a lot of information on the sub-topic, more than enough to create a multi-day lesson in Chinese for upper-level classes on just that sub-topic. I could use the handout on food, for example, to create my own lessons on food and urbanization.

Second, in Lesson Two, there are some authentic materials that could be useful prompts for discussion, including a McDonald’s menu, photographs of rural and urban life, and quotes from Deng Xiaoping. Unfortunately, the image quality in the spiral-bound copy is not very good; perhaps the pdf quality would be higher.

Finally, I suspect that the 9-minute DVD documentary would be the most useful. According to what I have read, there is little narration, but a lot of visuals showing the dramatic transformation of Shenzhen over time. This would lend itself well to discussion in Chinese. However, I was not able to play the DVD that came with the unit I reviewed, so I cannot say for sure.

The main drawback to this curriculum unit is that it was written in 2006. The online copy has the same cover, but no date is provided, so I do not know if it has been updated.

In sum, if you plan to do an extensive dive into China’s urbanization in an upper-level Chinese class, this curriculum unit could provide some useful reference material, but it will still require a lot of time and expertise on the part of the teacher to create Chinese-language lesson plans.


Posted By: Adele Eley

Posted On: December 7, 2015

This unit of study examines the urban growth of China. The teachers and students using this curriculum will explore the positive effects of urbanization, including better housing, increased income, and improvements in diet. There is also an opportunity to contrast this with the problem of air pollution, water pollution, and diets that are high in fat.

This curriculum guide is well organized and user friendly. The DVD is an excellent visual and dramatically shows the effect on the land with the increased urbanization. This DVD does not have a spoken narrative, but captions are provided for some scenes. This allows the viewers to draw their own conclusions about the visual presentation.

Lesson 1 examines the effects of China’s growth. It is broken into five 50-minute class periods. I question the ability to complete these lessons in the allotted time suggested. Some lessons may have to be divided, especially if the students are actively engaged in the discussion process. One of the initial activities (handout 1) may take several minutes for the students to complete. Going over the correct answers may be more time consuming as well. The DVD is 14 minutes long. Handout 2 is an assignment based on the video and would probably require some oral explanation as well as the written directions.

As you continue through the other 4 class periods for Lesson 1, there are many collaborative learning situations suggested. These activities in some instances include making a group poster and presenting it to the class. A teacher may want to evaluate the success of previous group assignments to determine if this is the best way to proceed with these class sessions.

Lesson 2 is a collection of 10 activities. These could be assigned to small groups or to individual students. The topics: Chinese McDonald’s Menu, Mega-cities of the World, Trends in Urban China, and others might be used as an ancillary to information presented in Lesson 1.
Because this unit was printed in 2006 the statistical data should be updated to reflect numbers that are closer to 2015. The Mega-cities of the World (activity 2) data is from 2001. According to information shown on the United Nations website (www.un.org) Tokyo, Delhi and Shanghai are now the top three populated cities of the world.


Posted By: Larissa Sturm

Posted On: November 29, 2014

Larissa Sturm
Norwin High School, Cultures of the World 10th Grade
10,000 Shovels Curriculum Review
The Curriculum Unit written in 2006 showcases the rapid growth and development in the Pearl River Delta in China from 1978 to present day. The unit provides the teacher with an in depth rationale, unit goals and curriculum standards. Teachers would need to incorporate their own state and common core standards when writing their lesson plans. The unit itself is broken down into two lessons but it is very important to note that the lessons are multiple days. Each individual lesson is completely broken down and has worksheets or activities to help the students along the way to help them understand how China is drastically changing. If I were to use each lesson it would take a little over two weeks to incorporate everything that is given in this unit. I love the idea of using the short documentary with a companion note sheet to help the students write down their thoughts while watching. I wish that the documentary used more than subtitles. For students that are struggling readers, this poses a problem. I would probably dictate while the students watched or have a student that like to speak dictate. Also, when it comes to the assignment of writing a response paper, I would provide the students with a detailed rubric so they would know exactly what is expected of them. Graphic organizers would also be on hand for students that needed them to help organize their thoughts.
Day one has the students take a small pretest to help them determine what they do and do not know about China when it comes to their population and their economy. I love giving pretests to the students because it really gives them a better perspective of their own knowledge of a country. Afterward, students would watch the small documentary regarding China and the Pearl River Delta and then write a reflection regarding what they saw.
Day two has the students discussing what they saw in the documentary and basically discussing what they wrote in their reflection paper. After discussing what they saw, students are broken down into groups and given instructions for a poster project. Afterward, students are given readings regarding the effects of China’s growth:
• Food
• Water
• Energy
• Cars
• Land
Students should read over these to have a better understanding of how much China has changed.

Day three has the students get back into their groups to work on their poster projects. If they do not finish in class, then they should finish for homework.
Day four has the students display their work and then go around the room to look at other poster projects and take notes on them. Afterward, students will break down into different groups to discuss what they have learned.
Day five begins with the students presenting their group findings. Afterward, the students should write another reflective paper that describes if the growth in China is good or bad. They should use their findings as a basis and can also use facts from the readings that were distributed to them.
I do not think that I would be able to cover this much work in the five days that are given. I think that I would need at least two weeks to cover this much in my 43 minute class periods. Also, there is a significant amount of group work. I am not a huge fan of this since this basically allows those that do not want to do work the opportunity to continue to do little to no work. I would have to find a way to ensure that everyone did their part. Each lesson has handouts provided, transparencies and other resources that could be used to customize this unit to fit the needs of each teacher.
In Lesson two: the activity collection there is a variety of resources that could be used to help showcase different ideas in China. From McDonalds to urbanization throughout the world, these activities would be great to help fill in the gaps or to get the students thinking about different topics. Will China become a fast food nation like the United States? How do trends in China compare to those here in the United States? Also, having the students look at charts that show megacities around the globe and the massive amount of people that live in them can be a real eye opener when it comes to viewing cities in our own country. In the back of the unit there is a glossary to help with main terms throughout the unit.
Overall, I do not know if I would keep everything exactly the same if I used it in my classroom. While I am completely on board with students thinking for themselves and researching an idea, I would have to tweak the poster a little so it would take a little less time and could be completely done in class. I would also have to make sure I provided students with special needs the extra materials needed to help them through this unit. I do feel that this unit is appropriate for high school level students that are working on understanding China’s growth and development over the past forty years. It is amazing to see how much the country has changed since it has started going through its industrial revolution and made its impact on the world economically. I feel that this unit will challenge students and make them more aware when it comes to events going on in other countries other than their own.


Posted By: Brenda G. Jordan

Posted On: May 19, 2011

TITLE: 10,000 Shovels: China’s Urbanization and Economic Development
REVIEWED BY: Milana Galagaza-Sopko
Oakland Catholic High School
9-12 Grade Librarian
ABSTRACT: This five-day, 50-minute lesson curriculum unit explores the extraordinary economic growth of China beginning in the late 1970s. It discusses the migration from rural decline to urban sprawl and how it has affected the Chinese from environmental practices to food production to industrialization. The curriculum guide is to be used while viewing the included DVD. The curriculum is available on-line, however, the DVD is not.

RECOMMENDATION: This Curriculum unit would be excellent and includes a DVD that would be of classroom value because the lesson plans, quizzes, introductory questions, web site links, culminating lesson questions, transparency copies, handouts and an instructional DVD are included. This curriculum unit is inclusive and in-depth. It could be utilized when teaching Social Studies, Modern World History, World Cultures, Human Geography, Macroeconomics, Contemporary World Issues, and International Relations and is most suitable for grades 9-12, but can be adapted for middle school.

URL: It is also available to download in PDF format by going to http://spice.stanford.edu/catalog/10000_shovels_chinas_urbanization_and_...