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…

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

.b

ImageThis past term I launched into .b with my students.    Spread out across half of the school year and interspersed between council sessions and homeroom ‘business’, .b has given us a chance to dig deeper into our daily practice.  Expanding on what we do and why.   The aim here is strengthening our students ability to cope with MYP and life beyond.   According to the Mindfulness in Schools site, ‘.[dot-be], is the name for the range of courses created by the Mindfulness in Schools Project, a non-profit organisation whose aim is to encourage, support and research the teaching of secular mindfulness in schools.’

My hope is the hook – with students connecting to practice in their passions – sport, music, and coping with the dramas in life.

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.  

Continue reading