Describing the world around us

Grade 6 Individuals & Societies Class sketching our local environment

Grade 6 Individuals & Societies Class sketching our local environment

In an early unit for the Grade 6 students at PIA, we’ve begun to explore ways of describing the world around us in geographical terms.  Students have been analyzing and creating their own maps and building their vocabulary as it relates to our immediate environment.

On Friday, we spent the morning practicing techniques such as field sketching to capture and communicate the world around us.  Students finally got a chance to get up close to the cows in the pasture across school as they sketched the landscape around campus.

Read more about our morning and check out photos here.

This activity is building towards a summative assessment, in which students will be asked to create an informative brochure, which focusses on part of our island.   Students will be drawing their own maps, describing the local area through words and drawings and demonstrating their knowledge and communication skills through this independent project.

Is there more to service?

PIA Adopt-a-Soi

PIA Adopt-a-Soi

This week the school adopted our street, er soi (in Thai) and spent Friday afternoon on our first clean up.  Leading up to the day, my homeroom spent some time talking logistics.  In the midst of the discussion of what to wear, when to go, what to do, one of my students raised his hand and asked, ‘Why do we have to do this?’  For many – including me just after the comment was made – the question was taken as apathetic and disinterested.   Grade 7 angst.  However, as I continued to probe, we realized he was asking much bigger questions.

  • Why doesn’t government services take care of the island?
  • What can we done to solve this problem?
  • How can we as students created larger change?

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to make the effort to clean up our community.   In fact, he was trying to work through solutions so that we don’t have to do that again in the future.   I encouraged the kids to think deeper, broader and more strategically.   Some ideas that came back included:   plastic bag ban on Phuket, CCTV cameras on every street with fines and punishment for those who liter, signs at the airport in all languages to encourage tourists to keep Phuket clean, and improved government services to address the problem.   Now what?  The soi is ours now, but I’ve already told the kids:  next year I hope we don’t have to clean it again.

If approached correctly, I truly believe that service can lead to deeper thinking, meaningful action and systemic change.   It starts small…

Positive action inspiring positive action

It started for me with the ALS #icebucketchallenge – sent from the suburbs of Boston all the way to my home in Phuket. I was up for the challenge and then decided to bring the story to my Grade 7 council.

We had a laugh at a few wet/cold celebrities and then watched the Pete Frates back story on ESPN to understand how and where this inspired action began.  I was thrilled by what happened next.   My reflection for Council was something like:  ‘What is something you feel is important enough to do something about?  What are you passionate about?’   I was worried that the awkward question would be met with awkward silence.  I was wrong.  In turn, each student shared very personal stories and passions for causes that they will tackle.   This included animal protection, access to education, pollution and environmental conservation, cancer research, Alzheimer’s, polio and ebola.  One by one they took their turns sharing, referencing uncles and grandparents, family friends and pets to inspired their passion in whatever ideas they spoke about.   Many of us had tears as we explained ourselves.  We all left feeling ready for action.    

Now it is on me / us to plan for ways to support this passion.   How can we nurture and incubate a spirit for action?   Does it fit within the IB MYP Individuals & Societies curriculum?   Does it happen through the Global Issues Network (GIN) or some other structure?   The kids are ready!

 

Project-Based Learning – How my kids and I spent four weeks in Yunnan, China

After weeks of hard work, the MYP2 Humanities class took their places at the roundtable to engage in a two day debate towards a solution to a real world problem.   In their project-based learning unit, entitled ‘River of Life’, MYP2 students strengthened their inquiry skills (and more!) as they tackled the question of hydropower electricity on the Jinsha River (Upper Yangtze) in Yunnan, China.

This activity served as a culminating experience for the students, who drew upon topics from their year of study, including cultural identity, migration and displacement, and human engagement with river systems.

Working independently, the students took on specific character roles** for the debate, addressing questions of alternative energy and environmental and social issues, as they honed their arguments and developed solutions.

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Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Zima Station, 1956

From The Atlantic – Yevgeny Yevtushenko.Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Zima Station, 1956

Don’t worry if you have no answer ready
To the last question.
Hold out, meditate, listen.
Explore. Explore. Travel the world over.
Count happiness connatural to the mind
More than truth is, and yet
No happiness to exist without it.
Walk with a cold pride
Utterly ahead
Wild attentive eyes
Head flicked by the rain-wet
Green needles of the pine,
Eyelashes that shine
With tears and thunders.
Love people.
Love entertains its own discrimination.
Have me in mind,
I shall be watching.
You can return to me.
Now go.

Inquiry: To What End?

This is a fantastic, deep and expansive post. A great look into inquiry.

Inquire Within

This was originally supposed to be a simple reply to Aviva Dunsiger’s blog post. I soon realized it would have been too short and thus I could have been easily misunderstood.
It all started with my question: “How do these projects enable deeper thinking?”, question that I asked after seeing her students’ work. Briefly the sequence of activities was the following:
1. Students brainstormed questions to guide their research on natural phenomena.
2. In groups of 2-3 they would write a poem using onomatopoeia and personification in the context of their natural phenomenon.
3. Last, they would create artwork that showed the natural phenomenon they researched about.
At first glance, this is an interesting and engaging chain of activities. Yet, to me, the over-arching question was missing. To what end? What was the understanding the teacher wanted the students to have? How does each of the three activities…

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