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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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.

Continue reading

The Daily News

As update to a previous post, our MYP 1 Humanities unit on Current Events is in full swing.  Screen Shot 2014-05-17 at 17.28.19I’ve been totally amazed by the energy and investment in learning from my students.  Collaborating with my former and future colleague @LanaMLautamus from Bangkok, my unit has unfolded with a daily sharing of news.

Every day of class, my students come ready to share a news story they’ve read.  Four students are chosen at random and they step up to the news desk and report.   I’ve been amazed at the depth of their reporting.  To date, they’ve tackled #bringbackourgirls, the continued conflict in the Ukraine, racism in the US, Shariah laws in Sudan, the Indian elections, and media bias in South Africa.  I ask them to summarize the main idea of the story and the main people/groups/countries involved.   Continue reading

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