Thursday, March 9, 2017

Science Skills in the PYP

If you drop by some of the Elementary hallways this week and next you would be forgiven for thinking you had wandered into a research facility.  As the students come to the end of their current unit of inquiry, they are all busy applying the science skills they have been developing over the past six weeks.

In the PYP, science is viewed as the exploration of the biological, chemical and physical aspects of the natural world, and the relationships between them. It encourages curiosity and ingenuity and enables students to develop an understanding of the world. Reflection on scientific knowledge also helps students to develop a sense of responsibility regarding the impact of their actions on themselves, others and their world.  In each grade level, scientific skills are developed leading to increased independence and understanding of scientific principles  These skills are:

  • Observing carefully in order to gather data
  • Using a variety of tools to measure data accurately
  • Using scientific vocabulary to explain their observations and experiences
  • Researching and exploring possibilities
  • Identifying and generating a question or problem to be explored
  • Planning and carrying out systematic investigations
  • Manipulating variables as necessary
  • Making and testing predictions
  • Interpreting and evaluating data gathered in order to draw conclusions
  • Applying understanding to create and innovate 
  • Considering scientific models and applications of these models

See how many of these skills you can observe yourself in the video of our students, below.

The summative assessment tasks the students will complete are designed by teachers to allow students to apply the skills they have learned throughout a unit of inquiry.  These includes grade 1 students using their knowledge of light and sound to create their own instruments and bounce and block light with their Light Challenge; grade 2 students applying their knowledge of forces and materials to design and build their own strong and stable structures; grade 3 students developing their own compound or complex machines and grade 4 students using their understanding of energy transfer to design and create toys from electrical components and circuits.

In addition to this, we had the fifth and sixth graders take part in Big Science Day, presenting their learning to parents this morning.  Grade 5 students formulated their own testable questions which allowed them to manipulate variables to investigate the properties of matter (click here to view their blog!).  Grade six students also  presented their scientific investigative skills as well as showing off the diseases board games they'd created using their new found knowledge of microbes and global access to medical care. 

Check the grade level blogs out over the next week or so to see these experiences in more detail.  And don't forget to attend the Middle and High school Big Science Day exhibition this evening, where there will be some guest appearances from some of our own grade 5 and 6 scientists!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Professional Development - Teachers as Inquirers!

Last Friday 24th February, the Elementary hallways were abandoned as the students stayed at home to allow teachers to attend a professional development workshop.  All homeroom teachers were fortunate enough to attend the Japan Association of Curriculum Design (JASCD) two day Spring Conference, hosted at The New Sanno Hotel and the International School of Sacred Heart.  There were two presenters at the conference: Dr. Mary Ehrenworth and Jon Nordmeyer.

Dr. Mary Ehrenworth is Deputy Director of the Reading and Writing Project, a not-for-profit think tank at Columbia University. Mary shared a vision of how we, as teachers, can turn writing into a transformative force, and ensure that each and every student becomes powerful at narrative, information, and argument writing. Our teachers who attended the workshop were given practical tips on how to focus their mini lessons and conferences with students, and were given the opportunity to practice and share techniques for the teaching of reading and writing with other professionals from international schools across Japan.

The Reading and Writing Workshop was hosted at International School of Sacred Heart last weekend.
Seisen teachers reflecting on their practice. 
Seisen teachers practicing a book club read-aloud and discussion. 
Jon Nordmeyer is an ESL/ELL specialist with an MA in TESOL and is the International Programs Director at WIDA, a research centre at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Jon shared his belief of how English language learners can often be associated with their limitations rather than their potential. Below is a provocative video clip of Moises, an English language learner, trying to solve a mathematical problem.  As you watch this short video clip, try to identify some of Moises' strengths - what strategies did he use to help him solve the problem?  Then think about the reaction of his classmates and teachers - were they aware of these strengths?  

The EAL workshop focused on how we must transform the conversations from focusing on what EAL students can’t do, to building on what they can do.  A recurring theme of this workshop was that there needs to be a shift from viewing multilingualism as a problem, to viewing multilingualism as a right, and eventually as a valuable resource for any classroom.

We are looking forward to further developing the areas of reading, writing and EAL in the future and are all excited to see what new experiences we can bring into the classrooms from our weekend of learning.