Beating at the heart of the Primary Years Programme (PYP) is an impressive vision statement:
“The PYP students to become active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others and have the capacity to participate in the world around them.” IBO
Our curriculum aims for children to be discussing big global issues and taking action beyond the walls of the school.
How often do we as teachers reach out beyond the walls of our classroom?
How often do our students discuss global issues without hearing directly from those who live the issues every single day?
As I prepared for a Sharing the Planet unit on water, I pondered how my students would really understand what it is like to live in a place where plentiful safe water running from the tap is a luxury.
I can run simulations like I did last year. Yet is a few minutes of discomfort going to inspire my students to take action?
I can show films of children in far off places for the children to discuss.
But how could take this further?
As I was pondering this question, @KristinZiemke, an educator in Chicago retweeted this:
Here was a child the same as my students. She lives in a country that my students think of as powerful and wealthy, without clean water. After a quick google search, I unearthed a fantastic video to provoke my student’s thinking.
Using a thinkers key, we played a game of would you rather drink water from the USA, Bali or South Africa. This gave the children a chance to share some of their personal experiences of water quality in the places they had been and also highlight some misconceptions.
After watching the video, the children talked about their thoughts using a Harkness discussion. My co-teacher and I quietly made notes of their questions.
- Why was the USA not protecting the children?
- Where does all the plastic from the bottled water go?
- What has happened to the plants?
- What happens at school? How do the children get water for snack and lunch?
- How does the family take baths and showers?
I didn’t know the answers to their questions, but there is an expert. Thanks again @KristinZiemke.
Through FaceBook, I got in touch with the family and arranged a Skype. We were lucky that time zones worked out, and we managed to arrange the meeting at the start of our school day and the end of the day in Michigan.
For the children sitting in Singapore, this is powerful learning.
- “By talking to another family, we really get to understand feelings.”
- “Imagine not having clean water. I should email the leaders.”
- “I have learned about the lead in Flint. I felt sad and I want to help”
- “I learned that not caring costs more. I can take action and want to write to the government.”
- “I want to raise awareness for the people in Flint.”
As a teacher, this highlights the importance of reaching out of the bubble of our own school context. If international schools are really going to embrace international mindedness, Units of Inquiry must have some element of a perspective beyond the classroom.
The perspectives not in the classroom, are the ones that are the most powerful.