Cultural Festival Reception and Year One

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What do all these key words have in common? Learner agency, differentiation, time line, maps, history, family, traditions, culture, heritage, community, action, awareness, international mindedness, documentation, celebration, reflections. Well if you are a Reception and Year One learner at the Intercultural School of Bogor, it all comes together in a cultural festival during the unit Where We Are In Place and Time.

In a nut shell:

Tuning into the unit Where We Are in place and time; students started their inquiry into their own family histories. They completed a KWL chart by saying what they know, wonder and want to learn about the UNIT. During class time the students were able to identify their home country flag and map where their home country is on the world map. Students automatically began to share who they are and how their host country is different to what they are used to. This allowed the students to obtain a big picture of how diverse their class actually is. During the inquiry students sorted out information about their family by using family trees, family photobooks and information they brought from home. Going further the students collected all their information in a central exhibition board where they were able to share information with the class and make conclusions of their journey and discoveries. This dynamic UNIT sprouted into action by sharing the learning with the school community during a cultural festival morning.

What does it actually look like in action?

It all started with one music lesson where children learned about their music teachers’ favourite traditional instrument and song from his childhood. Being inquisitive and unpacking the meaning of the song, you can imagine how this triggered a huge interest. As the subject matter dealt with rice and music, the children wanted know more about rice and the traditional instruments.

Figure 1. Children exploring the Kacapi Sundanese musical instrument.

The inquiry allowed children to set off to discover traditional rice cooking with our Bahasa Indonesia Specialist. Instantly the excitement started and lead to various questions. What does our own traditions look like? Where are we from? Who are our grandparents actually? Do I know enough about who I am and where I come from? One of the children said “our instruments look different in Brazil” another said “my grandmother play a drum in Korea, but it is not like the one in music class”. The big question was “How do you cook rice at home?”

Figure 2. Bahasa Indonesia specialist teacher models the writing of the names of the different utensils used during traditional rice cooking.


Figure 3. Then and now: reflecting on cooking rice in the past. Traditional tungku stove used by Indonesians.


Figure 4. One of the children preparing the rice before cooking by washing it. The rice is in a woven basket called a bakul.

Following our discussions about cooking rice we decided to try the traditional way in our host country Indonesia. As we were collecting sticks and laying them out in the sun to dry workers began to ask the children about what they were doing. This was interesting to watch, because as soon as the children began to physically do something different outside the classroom in the school yard they had others’ attention. We then sat down with the Bahasa specialist teacher and looked at all the different utensils needed to cook the rice. We named and labelled the utensils in both English and Bahasa Indonesia. We looked at shapes, texture, material, size, colours, pattern, weight and anything else the children were interested in. The children enjoyed predicting what the various utensils would be used for. Children stacked the sticks, washed the rice and watched a volunteer parent lit the fire. They went off to class and returned at lunch time to see what has happened. To their amazement the rice has steamed to perfection through the bamboo cone. As the children were cooling the rice with the hihid, I was sceptical to whether or not they will be risk takers to eat the rice. However they loved it! Soon the scent of traditionally cooked rice filled the school drawing even the office to come and have a taste. Ground staff said that the smells reminded them of their childhood and made them miss home in the kampong. All of this in one day unlocked the power of what was to come during this unit.


Figure 5. Allowing water to boil to create steam that will be used to cook the rice in cone shaped basket called a kukusan.


Figure 6. Using a fan type utensil called a kipas of hihid one of the children is cooling the rice before eating. The wooden spoon in called a centong-nasi.


Figure 7. Not before long everyone is out and about following the smells of long forgotten memories. The school’s finance lady is just checking up on the children to ensure they have done a good job.

Back in class children reflected in groups on their rice cooking experience and used their knowledge of procedural writing to explain the steps that they felt were important to document. The reflections were displayed along with photos outside the Bahasa Indonesia room, where it caught the attention of parents and other students. By sharing the process cultural awareness was created among the school community. I realized that this is the start of feeling international mindedness.

Figure 8. Display outside the Bahasa Indonesia class with children’s wonderings, reflections and photos.

After the rice adventure many other extraordinary learning windows opened. For the purpose of this article I would like to share how we embarked on our own personal differentiated learning journeys of culture, family and awareness.

We unpacked our central idea followed by Kath Murdoc’s Inquiry Cycle. We continued our tuning in with a KWL chart and needless to say a very successful KWL chart brought out wonderful knowledge and wonderings that filled our sails for an unforgettable journey. Keeping in mind that the youngest in the group was 4 years old and the oldest were 6 years old, we were ready for whatever learning was going to come.

Figure 9. Unpacking words in the central idea to differentiate understanding among children’s perspectives.

What do you know about your family? And what do you wonder about your family?

Priceless responses such as:

“When I was born my sister was already 5 years old, I know my family have many allergies, and I know my sister drew on my face when I was a baby”.

“I have 2 grandmas and 2 grandpas. One of my grandpa lives in Thailand and my other grandma lives in Indonesia, my family is half Indonesian and half Thai.”

“I wonder if my dad was born on a farm, I wonder if my mom was sang to when she was a baby.”

“I wonder if my mom is the same as my grandma. The same height, the same colour, the same size, what did my mom look like when she was born.”

These responses allowed for differentiation and learner agency. They all had differences and similarities that would construct the path forward. Each learner was given an exhibition board to display their findings and explorations over the next 6 weeks about themselves, their family, culture and history. During the unit they used art to paint and draw, they made connections between their knowledge of patterns to decorate their boards that lead to a discussion about patterns used in their home countries. Children used their writing skills to make family books, they conducted interviews with parents and grandparents. Some learned traditional songs and came to share it with their friends in class. Parents were sending video clips of themselves singing traditional song and of grandparents dressing up in traditional clothing. Children were interested in the world map, comparing distances form the host country to their home countries. Traditional story books came to school, photos and favourite toys also made their appearances. Then came the lovely discussion about birthdays and timelines. Children drew their birthdays as number lines and began to discover the real meaning of their age. Not even to mention the family trees that were created. Children looked at country flags, they compared height and weight with each other and to those of animals, and they created graphs and so much more.

Figure 10. Children are looking for their own identity as they search for their flag among the others in class.

Figure 11. Knowing that your weight has changed from birth until now, how would you currently compare to other baby animals. The only way to find out is by measuring your weight, researching and comparing results.

Figure 12. Children accessing art material independently as needed during the unit. Allowing children to be responsible for their own choices builds independent thinkers.

Children brought random objects, clippings, sketches and photos from home with stories; stories that tied all the concepts, knowledge and their unique understanding into a present called active learning.

Interview question that were sent home:

  1. What’s your first memory?
  2. Who’s the oldest relative you remember (and what do you remember about him or her)?
  3. How did your parents meet?
  4. Tell me about your childhood home.
  5. How did your family celebrate holidays when you were a child?
  6. How did you meet your spouse?
  7. Tell me about your wedding day.
  8. Tell me about the day your first child was born.
  9. What were your favourite school subjects?
  10. Tell me about your favourite teacher.
  11. Tell me about some of your friends.
  12. Describe your first job.
  13. What did you do with your first pay check?
  14. What was your favourite job and why?
  15. Who are some of your heroes?
  16. Where were you when you heard that President Kennedy was shot? (Add or substitute other important historical events.)
  17. What is your experience with or opinion of computers? (Add or substitute other modern conveniences, such as television, microwaves and cell phones.)
  18. Tell me about some of your favourite songs (also books, movies and television shows).
  19. Tell me about some of the places where you’ve been happiest.
  20. What haven’t we talked about that you’d like to discuss in the time we have left?

We used technology to explore change over time ( and ) the two links were examples of how you can see people change over time, just as we can see we have changed over time reflecting on our baby photos.

Figure 13. Creating a family portrait for the exhibition board by using various materials and different mediums of art.


Figure 14. Taking a closer look at the exact detail of the Brazilian flag. Being clear and precise of the facts will allow for an authentic representation of the country.


Figure 15. Using the knowledge of observation to complete an accurate representation.

Figure 16. The children brought extraordinary footage from home with evident parent involvement. This is a photo of one of the children with her grandparents. Information is clearly laid out by the parent to facilitate further discussions in class.

Figure 17. Spontaneously working together as a group while looking at the Garuda National emblem of Indonesia. This is definitely the heart of PYP where social constructivism takes centre stage in the classroom with the teacher as facilitator and fellow learner.


Figure 18. Integrating handwriting into the unit was very successful. Children used their own photos as a personal starting point to practice various language skills. The experience allowed the teacher to model differentiated needs as children were working at their own pace.

During my own personal reflection as the classroom teacher, I somehow felt as if I was on a journey that was not being connected to reality. As the unit moved forward I felt as if I was standing on the highest peak of a mountain that had the most magnificent view, with the wind pressing against my face and with open arms embracing the magic that was happening.

Wrapping up the unit: the big day arrived to take action and once again share our gift of international mindedness with the community. Involving the whole community we set out to change our assembly into a cultural festival. Parents of the Reception and Year One class were invited to celebrate their children’s 6 weeks of learning by collaboratively setting up a table next to their child’s display board echoing their culture, family and awareness.


Figure 19. A very excited mom sharing her experience and planning leading up to the cultural festival. What an honour to have parents actively involved in the learning community.

Teachers from across the school were asked to not just enjoy the marvellous moment but also to use the opportunity to observe learners from their perspective on how they display the aspect of the learner profile, attitudes, skills and knowledge. Further, learners from the school were involved to document what they liked and learned from each culture as they moved from each exhibition to the next. Lastly, all parents that were attending the assembly were invited to celebrate the community event as an awareness of where we are in place and time.

Figure 20. Home room teacher and PYP Coordinator welcoming the community to the cultural festival.

Figure 21. ELC students visiting the Indonesia: Ambon, exhibition.


Figure 22. Parent enthusiasm is key for successful community involvement. Children are known to copy adults, hence the importance of adults modelling the learning attitudes we want to see in our children.

Figure 23. One of the older students visiting the Indonesia: Flores exhibition. Mother and daughter eagerly await questions and are ready to share their cultural knowledge.

Figure 24. A teacher enquires about baby photos on the exhibition board display.

Specialists from Music and Bahasa Indonesia also had the opportunity to display traditional artefacts from Indonesia. The traditional rice cooking was replicated and shared with the whole school community.

Figure 25. Setting up the traditional rice cooking for the community. Both student and teacher proudly dressed to represent their countries.

Reception and Year One also reflected on what they have learned and enjoyed during the unit. Data collected from the teacher and learners were reworked into a personal reflection report of each child.

The following is an example of the individual feedback form created to capture the various reflections of teachers and students. The consolidation of information opened a whole new platform that allowed insight and discussions.


Country represented at the cultural festival: South Africa

Student name: Caydon

Grade: Reception

Date: 3 November 2017



Part One: School teachers’ observations and comments

Teachers were asked to observe the students. The teachers focused on the student’s ability to display the learner profile and IB attitudes during their presentation and display. 7 Teachers responded to Caydon’s presentation.



Observations by school teachers:

  • An excellent presentation by Caydon, not only for me, but watching him interact with his peers and other adults. Excellent work Caydon.
  • Caydon likes all the animals from South Africa.
  • Caydon explained well and answered questions well.
  • He had a good explanation.
  • He told/explained to me about his photos.
  • He explained confidently. I love the milk tart.
  • Excellent communication, Caydon took Hiroshi by the hand to show his photographs and to explain them. “This is South Africa, I’ve been in South Africa”.
  • Caydon Asked Mrs Ali to try the food. Very supportive with Hiroshi and took control of leading him through his display. He worked so hard to answer questions that he asked (very polite…)”could you go now, I am tired”.

Part B: Feedback from peers grade 2-9.

Students from year 2 to 9 observed Caydon and shared what they learnt from his presentation and display.

  • I learn the cheetah is the fastest animal, because it has lots of muscles.
  • The songs are good.
  • Good food, it is really awesome.
  • Barbeque means “braai” in the Afrikaans language.
  • Good food.
  • It looks fun and very African.
  • How food looks nice.
  • I liked the sausage with cheese.
  • I liked the taste of the sausages.
  • I like the sausages.
  • I liked the pudding. There is cinnamon powder on it.
  • We learned about African puddings.
  • I like the sausage.
  • I like the colours of the flag.
  • Good food.
  • Good food, very good stand.

Part C: Learner self-reflections.

Figure 26. Personal reflection.

Caydon made the following comments on his experience of the cultural festival.

“At the assembly I like it. I was not mean, I was not shouting, I was so nice to people. I tell the people we eat food. Our South Africa food. The food taste yummy. I told them everything I already done about South Africa. I like the food from Amelie, she is from Brazil, Ellena from Thailand, New Zealand is Vesper. Me – I am South Africa. Priciella, Megan from China. Indonesia is Malik and I mmm, remember Mica? Yunjin from Korea, I miss Koshy and Mica. Next time I know I don’t be shy!”

Part D: Feedback from homeroom teacher and teacher assistant.

Figure 27. Family photo.

During the unit, Where We Are in Place and Time, Caydon had interesting thoughts about his family. Caydon was more interested in his dog as part of his family. His thinking opened an exciting window of opportunity to explore his family history and culture. Caydon was a brave communicator and open minded. He was able to interact with various adults and students of various ages. I hope that this opportunity to share personal information with the community will allow Caydon to be more of a risk-taker during future events.


In closing this unit was indeed a worthwhile journey that highlights our responsibility towards education that inspires others to flourish.

Figure 28. Bringing a community of learners together from generation to generation. Reception and Year One learners and parents wrapping up an unforgettable learning journey as a global community.


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