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.

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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!

 

Keeping up with the Neighbors

In a professional development (PD) workshop earlier in the year, several of my fellow teachers and I were given a set of random statements and asked to interpret them and develop a unit around them.   Anything.  Open the box and jump around.   What came out the other end turned out to be so potentially cool that I’ve decided it will be my next unit of the year – tentatively called, ‘Keeping up with the Neighbors’ – a look at current events through the lens of global interactions, power and causality.  Inquiry questions need work, but I like where this is going.   The poster below reflects the six statements from our PD exercise – all related to interactions and the implications surrounding ones action:  the Suarez canal, US support to India for the UN SC, Snowden asylum, missile testing in Iran, lifting sanctions in Myanmar, and the kidnapping of truck drivers in Lebanon.  As always, suggestions and comments are most welcome!   This is a classic example of building the plane as we fly.   Updates to follow on what I expect to be an interesting trip for all!

Unit Poster

Poster for Keeping up with the Neighbors Unit, MYP1 Humanities

MYP1 Humanities in Action!

 

MYP1 Students in action

MYP1 Students in action

MYP1 Humanities in Action!

 When the students saw the extent of the problem, there was no other option – they needed to take action.

What began as a simple Humanities unit on Earth Systems evolved into an island-wide action project.  MYP1 students (grade 6), age 11-13, took it upon themselves to design, plan and execute two very different, but no less engaging, action projects. With inspiration from our community and like-minded students around the world, the classes divided themselves into two groups and dug in to learn as much as they could on their chosen topics, with focus on the biosphere – all living things – and on coastal conservation – oceans and beaches here in Phuket.  

Mindfulness

In August, I will be taking up a new post at Phuket International Academy Day School (PIADS), teaching Humanities and English in the Middle Years Program.   We are excited for many reasons – the new adventure, the new chapter in a winding career, the sand, and – not the least – the opportunity to connect mindfulness in the classroom.   PIADS is doing ground-breaking work in this area and I’m excited to join that process.

Over the next months, I will hone my own practice and prepare for my approach to students and colleagues.    I will use this space to collect and collate some resources on mindfulness in and out of school.   Further suggestions are most welcome!

Here is a good start:  Jon Kabat-Zinn bringing definition to mindfulness:

I also found this overview by Amy Saltzman helpful for teachers.  

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Design Cycle Challenge

Design Cycle Challenge

This week, KIS suspends regularly scheduled academic programmes for a school-wide Design Cycle Challenge (DCC) week.  Mixed teams (Grade 6-10) join together to research, design, market, and fly balsa wood airplanes.  This is an annual tradition at school and one, which has become somewhat of a signature for the school and most memorable moment for many students.  In short, an awesome week with some serious out-of-the-book/box learning going on.

After a day of rather blind and wild designs on Monday, teams tested their planes, recognized their issues and went back to the lab to retool.   The result were fantastic.   Suddenly, they (mostly) believe – this can work and why!

There are many positive take-aways from the process.  One I appreciate most is the leadership and cooperation that is built through the week.   High-functioning groups do not necessarily have all the budding engineers.   More often, they seem to be the teams that find ways to work together effectively and efficiently.