PYP Exhibition: A journey of a thousand miles…

PYP Exhibition: A journey of a thousand miles…

…begins with a single step! The Primary Years Programme Exhibition has started in Grades 4/5/6. In some ways, this unit of inquiry is like others in the PYP: It falls within a transdisciplinary theme; students work toward enduring understanding of a central idea. But while every other unit of inquiry is developed by their teachers, it is the students who come up with their own central ideas, and the students who create the inquiry. The expectation upon students is very high, but their entire time in PYP equips them with the skills and conceptual understanding to make this project a rewarding one for them.

Our transdisciplinary theme for the PYP Exhibition is Sharing The Planet: An inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.

Our central idea is: “Young people can have a positive impact in their community.”

Students have been unpacking the transdisciplinary theme, and working out what it means to them. We examined the different terms contained within the descriptor theme, such as “communities and their relationships,” “sharing finite resources,” and “peace and conflict.” From this point, they started considering what issues might be at play within these terms. They created a class list of different topics that could be investigated, and then set about choosing those with which they had a personal affinity. Each student wrote about 1-3 different issues under the headings of: Personal Connection-Previous Knowledge-Inquiry Possibilities/Possible Action. From this piece, they were assigned to groups to pursue their issues for the duration of the Exhibition process.

In these groups, they set about devising their very own Central Idea, which was a challenge as the students are ordinarily provided with these in each and every unit. The notion of creating an “enduring understanding” was a new concept for them, and they reveled in the task. Having examined the criteria for making one, the class had the chance to examine all the central ideas in existence in the school and debate how they were formed and what their features were. As a unit, we collaboratively contributed to each others’ efforts as we edited and refined our fledgling attempts. We offered suggestions to one another to simplify our statements, and eventually arrived at a finished product that would set the tone for our inquiry.

With the Central Idea in place, the groups set about creating the inquiries that would serve as the basis for their Exhibition. The thrust was to keep them big, connected to the Central Idea, and inextricably linked to the Transdisciplinary Theme. The students worked hard to make meaningful lines of inquiry together, and came up with a good set to initiate their journey.

In a busy week, full of new experiences, the students then came back to a familiar activity that denotes the “Tuning In” stage of every unit: forming questions for their inquiries. In their groups, they set about choosing appropriate interrogatories for their topic. They then divided these amongst themselves for the duration of the week, assigning and assuming responsibilities as the real work of The Exhibition begins.

Over the coming weeks, students will be assigned mentors for their groups; they will get deeper and deeper into their topics; they will be challenged by the content, as well as the collaboration; they will form ideas and challenge each other in their understanding; they will falter, feel frustrated; and there will be moments of incredible engagement, suffused with a sense of being involved in something bigger than themselves and more important than any previous project.

Our students have chosen to research Pollution, Animal Welfare, Energy, and Religion. We will tell you more about this process and convey why this unique experience in the PYP reminds us that their mission statement for their curriculum is as ambitious as it is noble:

“The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.”