who we are

Reflection: Who We Are

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Central Idea: Learning about ourselves helps us understand and connect to ourselves and to others in the world.

“Intercultural dialogue is the best guarantee of a more peaceful, just and sustainable world.”

Robert Alan

What constitutes culture? Why do we need to know about various cultures?  

Our young students of Grade 1 delved into their inquiry with enthusiasm and began with an exploration of their own cultures. During this journey they learnt about the elements of world cultures such as language, gestures used in greetings, symbols, dance, art, music, festivals, traditional dresses, religion and other aspects of culture. This led to comparisons between cultures. They identified some similarities in cultures and made connections such as cultural values that are passed from one generation to another through folk and traditional tales. They learnt how cultures differ and developed respect and appreciation for other cultures. With great pride they wore their traditional clothes for an International Food Party and shared their traditional food and drinks with each other. During the unit they came to know that cultures change and that many of the clothes we wear today and the foods we enjoy eating have been derived from other cultures.

Their field trip to Pinisi Science and Edutainment Park to savour the culture of the host country, Indonesia, was an enriching experience for them. They tried their hand at making traditional batik designs, playing the anklung and gamelan, and learning Indonesian dance and songs. It was a thrilling feeling for the first graders to ride their own mini becak, a traditional form of transport in Indonesia. The rich tapestry of Indonesian culture was surely woven in their minds as they viewed a live reenactment of a Sumatran tale, Malin Kundang.

The unit was wrapped up with a presentation by the students on an aspect of culture they found interesting and wanted to share with their peers. They presented this in myriad of ways and displayed impressive creativity. The presentation strategies included singing a traditional song, demonstrating a musical instrument, explaining a traditional recipe, performing a folk dance and displaying many other interesting elements of culture to a rapt audience.

In an increasingly intolerant world, exploring other perspectives and connecting with each other’s cultures leads to greater intercultural understanding and provides us with the tools to solve problems and promote world peace. It is something worth striving for as it builds strong community relationships between people from diverse backgrounds and enriches the lives of all the members of a community. By developing critical thinking skills, we become open-minded and come a step closer to being internationally-minded, caring, global citizens.

“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”
Gene Roddenberry

Contributed by Ms Nivedita

Grade 1 Homeroom Teacher


Culture is something that can be learned and shared

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Unit of Inquiry “My Body”

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During this first UOI about “My Body”, the Kindergarten classes have been engaged in lots of activities. Once a week, we join the two classes together and have rotation-based activities to help deepen the children’s understanding about body parts and their functions. The children also explore through games, songs, body movements, hands-on materials, books, role play and other physical tasks.

In one activity, the children were asked to assemble cut outs of body parts and make them whole again. Then they were asked to explain what they had assembled.

We have been enjoying our learning so far and we look forward to more great times ahead.

Kindergarten Team GJS

The Joy of Learning

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“Red, yellow, and blue are great alone, but when you mix them you create something beautiful. This is how lasting friendships are formed.  Two individuals coming together to create something beautiful -FRIENDSHIP” – Maribel Siems

Our current central idea is about tolerance of different characteristics supports people to interact with others and build friendships. Therefore, we conducted an activity where the students could work together and explore science in an artistic way. It is amazing to witness how one activity can stimulate five trans disciplinary skills.

  1. Social skills

Students learnt how to work together with their friends to create a beautiful artwork: friendship wreath. They placed their hands on one primary color and then held hands with their friends to create new color.

  1. Self-management skills

Students learnt to play safely, not to smear the surroundings and their friends.

  1. Thinking skills

Students thought of different colors they could make using those primary colors. They also

learnt how to make a certain color brighter or darker.

  1. Research skills

Students were curious to find out what color would come if they mixed certain colors.

  1. Communication skills

Students communicated to each other and to their teachers about the result of the color mixing.

 At the end, they might not remember what the lesson was, but I believe they remember the joy they had when they learnt.

Sheila Widya Laksmi

Homeroom Teacher of EY 2 Jupiter – Sekolah Victory Plus

Connecting and Cultivating Relationships with Students

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By: Corita T. Silapan, Grade 5 Class Teacher and Level Head, BINUS SCHOOL, Simprug


During my first year of teaching primary children, I was very strict.  As a new teacher in an exclusive school for boys, all immensely rich and spoiled brats where some come to school in a helicopter and with at least two bodyguards because they are sons of the president, senators or congressmen, I was warned by some of the senior teachers. I lived by the principle “First impressions last”, and my understanding was students need to get that impression that I am very strict on the very first day of school. By that I have to make sure that they get my message: “You have to be quiet every single day. You can only talk if I ask a question.” My classroom was like a military camp – every single noise made during individual activity was dealt with seriously.  My lessons were straight to the point, meaning, there were no segue, purely business.

Purely business.  That was my relationship with my students was like. No personal conversations. No sharing of experiences. No storytelling. No connections.  I admit I was quite satisfied because I was not getting tired from teaching. Noise gives me migraines. I knew there was something missing, but I did not dwell much on the thought. When the school year ended, I celebrated. I thought I was successful as a primary teacher. The following school year opened, and most students were visiting their former teachers. No one came to my class. That hit me hard. I thought I must have misinterpreted the senior teachers’ warning. True enough, I did.

Fast forward. Like any other stories, I’m sure you can surmise what happened next. There was total transformation. Through the years, I have developed a stronger personal connection with my students and vice versa. I read books and articles on fostering positive student-teacher relationship.  I learned to praise students; be sensitive to their individual differences; include them in decision –making; give them support and constructive guidance; listen to their stories of fear, anxiety and happiness; and share my own personal stories with them. It is always noisy during class discussions, but I call it “positive noise.” It still gives me migraines, but I always have paracetamol or mefenamic acid on hand.

I want to share the most successful learning engagements I’ve done so far in terms of “getting personal” and being more connected with my students. Most of them are related to our units of inquiry:

Grade 1, Who We Are:

We were learning about family traditions, and I made a book titled “When I Was A Little Girl”. It contained information about our family activities when I was young. I also included some of our real family pictures depicting the activity. The grammar focus for this unit was past tense form of verbs, and I was able to link it to the unit.  For every page of my book, there was one sentence about an activity I did with my family when I was young. For example, “When I was a little girl, I went to the beach a lot”, “When I was a little girl, my father taught me how to play chess”, “When I was a little girl, I slept every afternoon because my parents said it would make me tall.” While I was telling the story, the children giggled and whispered to each other. They couldn’t believe seeing photos of me while I was young. I gave the children their chance to share their family practices among each other, and I was glad to witness the learning engagement that transpired- children all happy and excited.

Grade 2, Where We Are In Place and Timebinus 1

The focus of this unit were choices and decisions involved in a journey, changes experienced because of a journey, and impacts of journey on individual. I made a slide presentation of my journey to Indonesia, the first country I’ve ever traveled to. My slide presentation had the background song “Journey” by Lea Salonga and the students were surprised to know that the singer of Mulan’s theme song is from my country, Philippines. I shared with them why I made that choice (later on they learned that one of the reasons is “economic”) and the changes I experienced such as cooking and doing laundry on my own, learning to speak Bahasa Indonesia, living in an apartment for the first time, and having to adjust to the Indonesian culture. The students were shocked to know that it was my first time to ride an airplane! After the discussion, many of them approached me and asked me to tell them more stories about my journey. They asked how I like living in Indonesia. I reckon they were happy to hear the positive things I said about their country.

Grade 4, Who We Arebinus 2

Last Christmas with my father (Showed this photo to my students)

I am not sure whether my deceased father would be pleased or vexed with me for always using him as an example in this lesson. This unit is about body systems and impacts of choices of lifestyles. I would share a personal story to my students of how my father used to be a chain smoker who loved to eat just meat all the time. At the age of 57, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. Two years after, he succumbed to the disease. I think telling the children a real story of the suffering of someone close to me was more convincing and had a more impact on their decision to live a healthy life. There was a lengthy discussion after this as children recounted how their family members also suffered from diseases.

There are other ways of teachers sharing more of themselves and connecting with the children. For example, sharing with the students how your weekend went and asking them how they spent theirs will set a positive mood for the week. The experiences need not be always positive. The students need to know that in real life, there are always desirable and undesirable events. Another example is filling in this activity sheet on the first day of school and sharing your responses with the children (e.g. favourite food, book and childhood memory, an accomplishment I am proud of, person I look up to, etc.). Starting with it will also help shy students open up.  binus 3

Reference: https://firstday.wikispaces.com/General

It’s been 13 years after that alarming realization, and I have changed a whole lot as a teacher. I still live by the principle “First impressions last” but in a totally different approach – not a commander but a friend, a counselor, a guardian, a mother, and a storyteller to the children. I still celebrate success every end of the school year, and I feel these successes are more genuine.