Students at Yangzheng Elementary School return to class wearing hats with 1-meter wing flaps.

Coronavirus: Chinese students return to class with ‘1-meter hats’ to practice social distancing

Apr 27, 2020

That’s one way to teach social distancing.

While the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc around the world, cities in China, where the first Covid-19 cases were reported, are cautiously humming back to life—and one school in Hangzhou has come up with a novel way to teach students about social distancing.

Students at Yangzheng Elementary School started the semester on Monday with a homework assignment unique to these fraught times: design a hat with a one-meter, or three-foot, diameter.

Students at Yangzheng Elementary School returned to class wearing hats with 1-meter wing flaps.
Students at Yangzheng Elementary School returned to class wearing hats with 1-meter wing flaps. / Photo: Zhejiang Daily

The hats, with two wing-like flaps, are modeled after the ones worn by government officials during the Song Dynasty.

(Read more: What the royals of China’s last dynasty ate)

Legend has it that the dynasty’s founding emperor, Taizu, came up with the design to maintain court etiquette during morning meetings and prevent ministers from conspiring against him.

Officials had to stand a hat’s width apart so they wouldn’t be able to whisper to each other. Call it high-stakes social distancing.

Emperor Shenzong of the Song Dynasty with the official court headwear.
Emperor Shenzong of the Song Dynasty with the official court headwear. / Photo: National Palace Museum

Administrators at Yangzheng Elementary School decided to have students design their own Song Dynasty-style hats to teach them about social distancing.

The original court headwear was made of bamboo and metal, but students used all sorts of materials, including balloons, cardboard tubes, and wooden sticks, to make their own.

“This was indeed our innovation,” Hong Feng, the school’s principal, told the local Zhejiang Daily newspaper. “We’re advocating students to wear a one-meter hat and maintain one meter’s distance.”

Students made their hats out of all sorts of materials, including balloons.
Students made their hats out of all sorts of materials, including balloons. / Photo: Zhejiang Daily

One meter is the World Health Organization’s recommendation for maintaining physical distance between individuals to prevent the spread of the coronavirus through respiratory droplets.

(Read more: Bubble tea shops’ quarantine special: 5-liter jugs of boba)

Schools in China are slowly starting to reopen after shutting down in January, though the students are returning to a changed environment.

A student at Yangzheng Elementary School shows off his “one-meter hat.”
A student at Yangzheng Elementary School shows off his “one-meter hat.” / Photo: Zhejiang Daily

They’re required to wear masks at all times, some schools are checking temperatures at the door, and classrooms have been rearranged to meet social distancing recommendations.

Nine provinces allowed high school seniors to return to class in early April, and schools in Beijing and Shanghai are starting to reopen in phases this week.

CoronavirusCity lifeChinese traditions