Kristin School’s motto is Progress with Integrity, Vision and Love. Embedded in this vision for learning is a commitment to supporting learners in becoming active and compassionate lifelong learners who want to make a difference in their world. The PYP exhibition is an authentic opportunity for us to see these aspirations move firmly into the hands of our students.
Last year, we were at home collaborating remotely during our exhibition term. This year, we were back in school and, as such, eager to make the most of collaborating in real time and space with others as we embarked on our student-led inquiries.
We wanted to be sure that we were empowering learners to act in response to their learning. Reflecting on our exhibitions in previous years, we found that the opportunities for student-initiated action had not been as strong or as meaningful as we would have anticipated. As such, we made a decision to have a shared central idea for our exhibition inquiries to explicitly raise the profile of action. Effective inquiry can inspire us to take meaningful action.
As part of an earlier unit of inquiry, we shared different kinds of personal and collective actions people take: participation, advocacy, social justice, social entrepreneurship, and lifestyle choices (PYP: From principles into practice, 2018). From the outset of this year’s exhibition process, we set aside one day per cycle for students to explore the notion of action in relation to their particular inquiry. They researched organisations and identified actions that may support understanding of the issue or help alleviate it. They sought feedback from others on the usefulness of their proposed actions, revising their plans as they went.
Before the end of the exhibition term, nearly all students had engaged in a form of action that demonstrated a meaningful connection to their inquiries. We saw small lifestyle choice actions such as changing warm up and cool down habits to avoid sports injuries, and checking on packaging as part of weekly grocery shopping. There were groups advocating on behalf of others, including those with learning disabilities, or raising awareness of environmental issues. Students organised participation and information events to engage younger students in learning more about specific exhibition issues, for example the role sport plays in having an active lifestyle, or the important responsibilities of digital citizenship. We see that these actions involving our own learning community have the added benefit of demonstrating and modelling how everyone can act on their learning.
Learners’ actions were often informed or inspired by our interactions with primary resources, such as subject or industry experts. To support learners in identifying primary resources, the year 6 team have compiled an ever growing database of possible contacts from within and beyond the school community. As a three programme IB World School, we are fortunate to have within our learning community, a wealth of people who are more than willing to support our young learners. Added to this, our students are becoming more and more adept at reaching out to primary resources beyond our immediate community, with some arranging to meet with experts at their place of work such as universities, car yards, health facilities, gyms, beaches and service organisations. Our teacher/mentors were helpful in facilitating this process.
Students initiated contact with their identified primary resource, devised questions and considered possible follow up questions that might be needed as a result of their interactions. Most students engaged with their primary resources early in their inquiry process with their initial questions often leading students to deeper wonderings. Sometimes their visits resulted in students’ planned or spontaneous participation in an experience that helped them understand their issues better, for example a visit with an environmental leader led to the students joining an event to plant native grasses to help restore nesting grounds for migrating birds.
Even though the inclusion of action in our central idea has resulted in students responding more meaningfully to their learning, we still have a way to go to ensure that our initiatives are making a positive difference in our own lives or the lives of others. Reflecting on this year’s efforts, we had some wonderings about the sustainability of our actions. As such, we see the need to build understanding of action across the junior school.
Every year, the exhibition looks different at Kristin but one thing remains the same - the levels of student enthusiasm and engagement are always consistently high. Students understand the responsibility they have for their own learning and this brings about all kinds of feelings. Reflecting on their learning journeys this year, students described feelings of excitement, nervousness, confusion, pride, resilience and determination. Sometimes all within the same day!