how the world works
The PYP enhancements are continuing to roll out these next few months, all of which have helped me stop and think about my students, my classroom, and my school. But one change in particular has had me reflect and question my role as a teacher; that change is the inclusion of the new PYP Learner model, and how our students will grow through their sense of agency.
In the new document “The Learner in the Enhanced PYP,” the IB defines agency as a power to take responsible action, through voice, choice, and ownership. But what is agency? Agency is not something we give students. And it’s not something we as teachers plan for third period on a Thursday, or the last week of a Unit of Inquiry. It’s an innate characteristic that students already have, and we as educators recognize, celebrate, and honor. Awakening agency is recognizing students as leaders in their own learning processes. According to the IB, “agency is present when students partner with teachers and members of the learning community to take charge of what, where, why, with whom and when they learn.”
Okay, but what does that actually look like? How do we as educators actually honor student agency? How can we change our practice to support students and empower their sense of individual voice, choice, and ownership? To start, I began taking a risk in my classroom, and handed over the reins to my students.
Our current Unit of Inquiry fits under the transdisciplinary theme of How the World Works, with the following central idea: life on Earth is dependent on Earth’s position in the solar system. After a trip to a local museum and a little bit of research, students showed interest in the Moon and space travel. Normally, at this point in planning an inquiry, I would use the key concepts, lines of inquiry, and student questions to plan learning engagements. But trying to honor their sense of agency, I did something a little different. I gave the concepts and lines of inquiry to the students, and let them plan our week.
I gave students teacher resource books, and showed them Teachers Pay Teachers. I showed them different tools we have at school. I even let them plan a shopping list (with the understanding that they stick to a strict budget). The only expectations were that they had to choose activities that answered their research questions and helped them deepen their understanding of form, connection, and function through the LOI Earth’s relative position in the solar system. And off they went.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Katie, are you insane?! These students are too young! How do you know they get the “right” knowledge, build the “right” skills, etc.? Well, these were the questions I was thinking about… But guess what? They took their time, and chose several activities that were better than my original thoughts. They critically compared different engagements, discussing which would help them better understand the CI. One student found a coloring activity, and said “this looks fun and cute, but I don’t think we will learn much from it.” And she chose something else. After they planned and led their chosen engagements, students reflected on their evidence of success. Here are some examples:
I know that this is only a step in honoring student agency, and no, not every activity went as well the ones listed above. And if I’m being honest, the health food advocate in me is still a little upset that I bought Oreos for my students! But instilling this sense of responsible action is worth a few bumps in the road. It’s worth the uneasy feeling that I’m completely letting go. It’s worth throwing my whole planning process up in the air, and trying something new – even if it completely fails. Why? Well, it’s not because the IB says we “have to” now. It’s because by co-constructing our investigations, we are naturally personalizing education, and cultivating independence, trust, and a love of learning.
So I encourage you all to take a deep breath and try. Give your students a chance to plan a week, a day, or even an afternoon. Give them the outcomes, and see what they come up with. And if it blows up in your face, try again. If education is about bettering our students, then they should have the right to be a part of the planning and decision-making. As PYP educator Taryn Bond states, “who better to know what learning is personally relevant than the students themselves?”
by Katie Stone
Grade 3 Teacher
Bandung Independent School
Sources: International Baccalaureate Organization, 2017. “The Learner in the Enhanced PYP.”
Under the transdisciplinary theme, “How the world works”, our students explored the central idea, “All actions and interactions involve forces, which follow scientific and universal rules”.
In Visual Art, the students did blow painting with a straw and they enjoyed doing it.
Students love blow painting as it is not only fun to do. Students can make all sorts of artworks in various designs and color schemes. They can drop any color they like on paper and blow it. They can make a drop with a single color and blow it or do two drops with different colors.
Blow painting is a simple activity that students can do over and over again. It can be used for teaching students about the color wheel.
Students were very creative in doing this activity. They made different styles on how they dropped the colour on paper. Students used a paintbrush to drop the colours, including water colour. They created various images such as panda, tree, flowers and clouds.
A number of students did a single drop. Other students dropped two to three colours and then blew them. When the colours mixed together, they produced a new colour. During the activity, students came up with comments such as “How cool is that!” and Wow!”
In doing blow painting, students used the air pressure through their mouth to produce forces. They used high or low air pressure to create their masterpiece. They conducted experiments on high and low air pressure. They learned that the more they blew the straw, the easier they will feel tired.
By: Irma Dwi Savitri
Visual Art Teacher
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug
One of the strategies that we can use for promoting inquiry is a mystery box. A mystery box is a great way to introduce any concept and grab students’ interest and attention. This strategy can be used over and over again.
In exploring the unit of inquiry on “How the world works”, students were introduced to a mystery box filled with 10 to 15 objects. The unit of inquiry has the central idea, “machines bring efficiency and convenience in people’s lives.”
In making use of the mystery box, examples of simple machines like rolling pin, a pair of scissors, and a paper hole punch machine were in it. Students were then asked to grab one object from the box with their eyes closed. Afterwards, they guessed the object and described it through their sense of touch.
The learning engagement was integrated with language. Students used adjectives to describe the object that they got from the mystery box as shown in the following example.
After using a few adjectives to describe what they had touched, the students were then asked to open their eyes to talk more about the object as presented below.
During the learning engagement, students talked about the name and use of the object as well as what would happen if the tool was not invented. Students gave responses such as, “It will be difficult to knead the dough flat. We will feel tired if we have to use our hands” and “It would be difficult to cut vegetables and fruits if the knife was not invented.”
Apart from using their senses, the mystery box learning engagement helped the students practice on their language skills, learn new vocabulary, and enhanced their thinking skills. After the learning engagement, students reflected and collected their thoughts using a concept map, which they used for writing a descriptive text.
Students found the mystery box learning engagement interesting and they were able to make a connection with their daily life. Students also better understood the importance of machines.
By: Rajeswari Chandrasekar
Grade 1 Class Teacher
BINUS SCHOOL SIMPRUG
The grating sounds of saws at work and of nails being drilled into hard bamboo filled the air as children, totally immersed in their project, carried 30 foot poles of bamboo to makeshift stands made from chairs, measured them carefully into different lengths and sawed, drilled and hammered away.
It had been an exciting few weeks. The Grade 4 children at Bali Island School had been looking at how the design of buildings and structures was dependent on environmental factors, available materials and human ingenuity. As part of the inquiry, the children had met and interviewed two well-known architects in Bali, visited an indigenous Balinese compound, as well as a marvelous centre for yoga, built completely from bamboo. The children were curious to find out why certain materials were used for building in modern and traditional Balinese structures. So they devised many scientific experiments to test a variety of building materials for strength, insulation and waterproofing qualities. This helped the students to understand their properties better. They were astonished to learn that bamboo was as strong as iron of the same mass!
The next question was how could they apply their newfound knowledge to an authentic, real life situation? The result: A desperately needed Lost and Found Property Centre for the Primary School.
The children first decided to brainstorm ideas of what had to be considered before starting the project. They looked closely at the lost property in the school to see what they had to plan for. Many questions arose that ranged from which building materials would be the most suitable to how to decide the right measurements. They wondered how different kinds of lost property would be best stored. What if it was a wet swimming costume and towel? Should they have pegs or a bar with hangers for clothes? Did they need drawers in which to lock valuable things or should they stick to shelves? They decided to measure bottles, bags and lost kits to understand the shelf size needed. They considered the average heights and arm lengths of the children and teachers to decide on how tall the centre should be and how deep.
What else did the children gain from this experience? By being challenged and actively engaged in tasks that were authentic, relevant to them and significant to the entire community, this project helped to promote self-management, perseverance, and a willingness to adapt to different roles and collaborate respectfully over different ideas and assume responsibility. In short, many of the skills necessary to help our students thrive and succeed as responsible citizens in a changing world.
Grade 4, Classroom Teacher
Bali Island School
(Formally Bali International School)
I found a very interesting artist for my grade 5 visual art lesson on the unit of inquiry, “How the World Works”. The name of the artist is Tony Orrico, an American and best known as “human spirograph”. Spirograph is like a mathematical toy that creates elaborate circular shapes known as “hypotrochoids” and “epitrochoids”.
Tony Orrico is famous for his “Penwald Drawings”, which consist of a series of bilateral drawings in which the artist explores the use of the human body as an instrument to create geometric patterns through movement and course. Through a series of careful movements and repetition of his arms, Tony Orrico creates compelling and beautiful geometric artwork. Tightly clenching carbon sticks of graphite in his fists, he makes series of repeated and varied movements involving his entire body over predetermined periods of time or until certain numbers of strokes, cycles or rotations are done.
Tony Orrico does not only use body movements to create his masterpieces but also his teeth. He spends between 15 minutes and seven hours to complete one of his artworks.
In the end, I was surprised when we did a reflection. Students commented that they admired Tony Orrico’s stamina in doing his masterpieces. Students said that Tony Orrico’s artworks look very easy to do, but in reality one has to work hard to follow his style. Students noted that Tony Orrico can spend 15 minutes to seven hours non-stop, but when they were doing it as a group, they felt tired even just for a minute. It made them realize that creating a masterpiece does not only require creativity but also passion and perseverance.
By: Irma Dwi Savitri
Visual Art Teacher
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug
Under the theme of “How The World Works” with the central idea “Problem solving leads to inventions and innovation”, PYP 5 students are currently learning about invention and problem solving. To support students’ understanding of these concepts and in an attempt to foster transdisciplinary collaboration in Mandarin class, students inquired into the invention of the printing press, one of the four great Chinese inventions. The first type of printing press was invented by a Chinese man named Bi Sheng and later improved upon by Johannes Gutenberg of Germany.
As a provocation activity, students were given one Chinese character (e.g. 王, 白, 林), and asked to make as many identical copies as possible in a very limited time. To accomplish this mission, the students tried different methods, such as measuring and copying. During reflection time, they realized that making identical copies in a limited amount of time was not at all an easy or efficient thing to do.
Then we had a discussion focused on the question: how can we make this job easier? Students came up with the idea of making a stamp which is actually a simplified version of a printing machine. Students created their own stamps using available materials. Once they had finished their stamps, they tried the same task again which was to make multiple copies of the Chinese character. In conclusion, they realized it is much easier to do this task using the stamp which in turn explains how simple machines can help us to solve many problems and make our jobs easier.
This inquiry did not only show the invention of printing but also extended into studies into chinese language and culture. It gave students good insights into how problem-solving leads to inventions and innovation, while giving them an opportunity to explore Chinese culture and heritage.
By Karina Wiguna Atmaja
Sekolah Ciputra, Surabaya
This article highlights year 3 students inquiry into migration and exploration through inquiry led personal central ideas and action through ICT integration.
“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.”- Walt Disney
‘How the World Works’ is the trans-disciplinary theme that motivated Global Jaya School’s Year 3 students exploration into the world around them.
Students began by creating their personal, central ideas that drove their inquiry into a topic of their choice. They achieved this through using the Tubric model, which guides learners to form student inquiry questions.
Students integrated ICT by creating personal WIX websites that illustrated their line of inquiry.
Here is an example of a student’s work.
http://annayr3.wixsite.com/daffa-3b (use this as a sample for the blog site of what year 3 students did to show their learning)
Anna R. Cottrell Year 3 teacher Global Jaya School