This week was crazy busy! Students have been aware since the beginning about some elements that would be required (writing, data, design thinking, action, art, music etc...) and this week we introduced several of these as mini lessons. Moving forward, a big part of our plan is to encourage time management, independence and a then more time management. Teachers were busy checking in with kids and most worked on at least a few of the above elements this week.
The data collecting is something new that we have never done before, and it has been exciting, interesting, difficult and stressful. Most of our kids are collecting first hand data, and some are even collecting second hand data. Preparing surveys, discussing audience participation and size and constantly reviewing the idea that good data could likely be connected to taking action. It has not been easy, we are learning from our mistakes and hopefully the outcome will be amazing!
Collecting Data Mini Lesson
Design Thinking Mini Lesson
Writing Piece Mini Lesson
'How the World Works' Exhibition
It's about the process, not the "product"
Here's how it looks like for us:
As a school, we are fairly new to the entire Exhibition scene (this is our 4th one), and every year we experiment with ways to do it better than the year before. It can be a very exhausting process for us teachers, but we legitimately walk away at the end of each Exhibition season think that we pulled off something bigger and better than the year before.
Our Exhibition takes place mostly over a two day period. On Wednesday, we have all parents, teachers and mentors come in at night. This year, we started in the auditorium where we essentially hand pick a few of our students to get up on stage and show something from a part of their process. Most kids shared parts of their action, their Think Tank presentations or another part of the process that they were proud of.
We then make the big move upstairs to the grade 5 hallways. The set up is fairly unique compared to what we have seen at other schools. Our main goals are to focus on the process and not on a product, which is why we go with the "tour guide model". The idea is that students will pair up with a parent, teacher or mentor and take them on a tour of their entire process. This involves them walking around the grade 5 hallways and stopping at different points along the way to show something off or to share.
Each section of the hallway is devoted to a part of the inquiry cycle, and it is almost entirely created by displaying student work. Although the teachers take care of creating the 'Tuning In' section, students are expected to have something to contribute to each other section (Finding Out, Sorting Out, Going Further, Making Connections, Taking Action). Some students display posters, keynote presentations, data they collected, interviews, models, art work, or anything else that was a part of their process.
The best thing about our Exhibition is that the entire "show" is like a conversation. Kids don't have to worry about standing beside a project and talking if and when someone stops by. They work is on display for all to see, and anyone giving a tour or going on a tour is free to stop and look at someone else's project together. This results are so much organic and it is just so amazing to see.
Every year, we have a handful of students that struggle throughout most of the Exhibition, and during old way of presenting Exhibition, these students just sort of needed to stand by a project that looked underwhelming compared to their classmates. People rarely stopped by to check out their work and they didn't usually have too much to say when standing beside their poster boards. With our Exhibition Tour model, these students are now so much more engaged and able to showoff the highlights of their own journey throughout the process. No one is just standing around, doing nothing.
The second day of our Exhibition, is for the students. This year we invited grades 3 and 4 to come up, as well as a few other grade 5 classes from other International Schools. We try and do this by having only one or two classes at a time, and each student is paired up with a grade 5 student, or, by pairing up pairs of kids. We really liked doing this this year because it allows for these other students to really get to understand the process and see how the Inquiry Cycle works. Of course, since the (other) students are in charge of the tour, they can also stop to look at other projects along the way. It is so amazing for us to see one of our grade 5 students talking about the projects that their classmates worked on.
After the big day(s),we kept our Exhibition displays for a week. This allowed for other grades to check them out as they wished, and also allowed for any parents to drop in if they weren't able to make it to the "show".
Friday is spent celebrating! We went to the park for the entire morning. We have our admin team leading games and activities while each teacher spends 5 minutes sitting down with each student individually going over the 'Exhibition Reflection'. Just in time for lunch, we head back to school where we have a ginormous picnic and barbecue. It truly is a fun and relaxing day, and a great way to end the week.
Obviously, there are a few things that we would change for next year. We felt a lot of students eventually got a bit away from our related concepts of Discovery and Innovation, as well as the overall science theme. Next year, we may try and introduce the related concepts (we might try some new ones) right at the beginning of the year, that way students are comfortable with them and the idea of science when the Exhibition roles around again!
Overall the Exhibition was a huge success! I'm sure the next one will be here in the blink of an eye!
This year's TD theme: How the World Works
Guiding Concepts: Discovery & Innovation
Teachers' initial feelings before beginning:
OMG, no one has ever done this before! Literally, we scoured every corner of the internet and we couldn't find much. The only glimpses came from a blog I read from time to time. For the first time in 4 years, our team is moving away from our traditional TD theme of How We Express Ourselves and trying out something completely new. Why didn't we just going with something we see all the time like Sharing the Planet? Apparently we are up to the challenge!
Some of the questions we had before beginning:
How will we keep this from looking like a science fair?
Can we have an exhibition where student collaboration is not dependent on creating groups?
Can we allow for independent inquiries?
What will we expect on the day of Exhibition?
What is our expectation for action?
How can we backwards plan when we don't really know what things will look like in 8 weeks?
How can we more effectively use our school community and mentors?
How can we get parents more involved?
It went better than I had actually imagined. We brought all of our grade 5 students down to the auditorium. There, they were presented with large pieces of paper with the following prompts on them: What is Exhibition? Questions I have about Exhibition & What skills and Attitudes will be important for me to use during the Exhibition? Students were given markers and sticky notes to share their ideas.
We then went into watching a movie we knew would get them excited about this year's theme of science, Mysteries of the Unseen World . The silence was only interrupted by the ooohs and ahhhs of the students in the theatre. Student were more than excited about the images of science they had seen throughout the movie.
Back in the classroom, students were presented with the TD HTWW theme descriptor:
Inquiry into the natural world and its laws, the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.
They were able to deconstruct it to come up with many valuable words and ideas to connect to our potential Exhibition projects. While talking about some of the meanings of words, students were even able to come up with on their own, the ideas of discovery and innovation.
On Tuesday, we began by talking about the word discovery.
Here were a few of their ideas to describe the word discovery:
Students then posed questions about past discoveries they wanted to know more about. Who invented electricity? Who invented language? Who discovered Japan? Who invented the first cell phone?
We had our students participate in a Discovery Walk around the classroom. Their challenge was to find to look deeper and closer than they ever had before, in order to find things that they had never noticed before. At first it was difficult to find things, but then all of a sudden, people started noticing all sorts of strange things about our classroom. It was amazing!
On Wednesday and Thursday we presented students with what we called "Experience Stations", where in each classroom, students were presented with different materials and challenges to experiment with. No explicit instructions were given, so students had a lot of freedom to try out different things. We followed with some refection questions to prompt track their discoveries!
On Friday, we gathered our students to begin looking at the concept of innovation. We know that people/scientist innovate things to make our world a better pace and or to help people, so we asked: were there objects in our room that were innovated in order to help us as students and teachers? Staplers, white out tape, iPads, cork boards, water bottles and the list went on and on. How were the Experience Stations we completed earlier in the week connected to possible innovations of the past or the future?
Next week, we look forward to diving further into our tuning in!
Check out the shorter version of the video we showed on launch day!