Exhibition ~ Week 3

The ‘groove’ of Exhibition has finally been found at Prairie Waters. It is so exciting to hear about all of the enthusiasm being demonstrated and research being undertaken by our grade 5 students. I’m still blown away by all of the connections our students and their mentors have been making to primary sources of information.

We’ve had Skype interviews with Professors to ask questions about the impacts and effects of Cyberbullying. We have Skype interviews lined up with an avalanche rescue volunteer from Colorado and an organization in Hawaii dedicated to cleaning up the Pacific Garbage Patch. Skype

We’ve been emailing with countless contacts to ask questions about many different Exhibition topics

Email

We’ve invited experts into our building to be a guest speaker or have a one-on-one interview with groups. We’ve had an organization dedicated to therapy dog training, a visually impaired community member with his service dog, the organizer of the World’s Longest Hockey Game, a Prairie Waters staff member who has adopted a rescued greyhound, an addictions counsellor, a local community member who is taking action to preserve the wetlands around the town and many more!

We have groups going off-site to visit different places and organizations to see first hand how they operate, and what they do. Some of our visits include the Calgary Herald, the Calgary Zoo, Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, Calgary Humane Society and The Police Dog Training Centre in Bowden.

Amazing!

In our attempt to be environmentally responsible, we have tried (as much as possible) to keep everything related to our Exhibition in a digital, collaborative space. Google Drive and our Exhibition Blog have been our best friend (and sometimes, our worst enemy. The Apps for both of these tools can sometimes be limiting in their capabilities, and our network – oh my, our network! There are days that our network is so s…l…o…w because all of the students are using their iPads at the same time: working on Google Drive, streaming videos, posting blogs, uploading images. The kids, for the most part have become more patient when things are lagging, and oftentimes, going into these tools through their Internet browser works much better, but, not always! All things that we have learned in the last 3 weeks!).

Some of the digital tools we’re using with our Exhibition group this year include:

  • Our students’ Exhibition Guidebook was shared with them, their teacher and their mentor on Google Drive
  • Our Mentors fill out a meeting form each time they meet with their group, again, shared on Google Drive with students, teachers and the mentors so everyone is able to see and collaborate. It’s also a great anecdotal assessment piece.
  • Each week, our students are reflecting on how they are demonstrating the elements of the PYP, as well as talking about things that are going well, things that are tricky and things they will try to work on to improve for next week. They are completing these reflections by blogging on our Exhibition blog, and this week, some groups even made movie reflections of how they think their Exhibition is going.
  • Students will also be filling out self and peer assessment forms (Thanks to Kristen Blum for the idea on her blog of what to include in the reflection!) via Google Forms. They will assess themselves and a group member on the Attributes of the Learner Profile, the Transdisciplinary Skills, and the Attitudes.
  • The EasyBib add-on in Google Docs arrived at just the right time! Our students are using it to compile their bibliography of all the sources they are using for their research.

It’s exciting to see all of the skills and knowledge the students are developing by using digital tools for all of the aspects of Exhibition. Even though there have been speed bumps along with way, the resilience the students have demonstrated, the patience that they’ve gained, and the level of collaboration that they’ve shown has been worth the headaches and hiccups along the way.

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Exhibition – Week 1 & 2

Note – I had intended on writing a weekly blog reflection on Exhibition, just like the students. This has been sitting on my dashboard, in draft mode since last week! The level of ‘busy’ with Exhibition was more than I had anticipated so I haven’t found the time to complete that first week’s reflection. I finally did, and now it’s pretty much the end of week 2, so I’ll throw that in here as well!  I’ll be honest…week 1 was rough! Week 2…I think we’re finally starting to get our sea legs and things are taking off… 

We are winding down our first week of our very first Exhibition. It has been a whirlwind; with much excitement, some nervousness and a little bit of frustration thrown in the mix. I can see where the challenges are emerging. This year included, our grade 5’s have been involved in the Primary Years Programme for 3 years. 3 years that everyone in our school has been learning about and beginning to implement the elements of the PYP and the inquiry process. Needless to say, many aspects of our grade 5’s completing their own planner for their Exhibition have been quite difficult for them. We’re not yet at a place in the Programme where we have a fully defined scope and sequence of how we will address the Key Concepts, lines of inquiry and generating deep questions related to the Key Concepts with our students in the younger grades. That’s not to say we’re not doing it at all, we just need to continue working on doing it in a more purposeful, deliberate way.

When I was at the Exhibition workshop in Vancouver in February, one of our workshop facilitators, DJ Thompson made a comment that struck a chord with me.

Everything about the PYP is transparent; with students, with teachers, with parents. Nothing is hidden, HOW teachers plan a unit and the elements that are included in the unit should be shared with and explained to the students. Even including them in the planning process. Why do we feel that we need to keep what we do, how we plan and what we ‘tell’ our kids we are inquiring into hidden, or a secret?  In order for them to understand the WHY, it’s important for them to be ‘in on the secret’.

This transparency:

  • allowing students to understand what the key concepts are, how they are used to generate deeper questions
  • how and why we determine a Central Idea
  • how we come up with lines of inquiry
  • why developing the Transdisciplinary Skills is important for students to become independent inquirers

will better prepare our students for the independence required in grade 5 to successfully complete their own Exhibition planner as they dive into their personal inquiry.

Even though developing lines of inquiry and conceptual questions has proven to be quite challenging for our students, they have been very committed to doing the best that they can do, with the understanding and knowledge they have about these elements of the PYP.  That’s something that is very exciting to see. Our students are working through the frustration, being ok with not knowing, trying their best anyways. That is one of many celebrations!

Week 2 is now almost complete as well, students began to move into more researching and connecting with primary sources of information. Encouragement of academic honesty and recording their sources of information as they go along has been heavily stressed this week and we’ve had discussions about Image Copyright. Finding images that are creative commons-licensed, and giving proper attribution.

I find it amazing the number of connections we have been able to make in the span of 1 week. Almost every Exhibition group (we have a whopping 53 groups!) has at least one primary source lined up to speak with. Some have already had their first face to face interviews, some are preparing to Skype next week, some have been in contact via email while others are getting their field trips lined up. This just blows me away. Not only how many connections we’ve made, but how willing all of those ‘experts’ have been to help our students with their inquiries. Along with the support of ‘experts’, I cannot imagine how we would be getting through Exhibition without the support and dedication of our mentors. They have been beyond phenomenal!

Today, while I was in one of our grade 5 rooms, talking with the students about Image Copyright, I wanted to get a pulse check. I asked the students now that they were 2 weeks into Exhibition, how were they feeling? At the start, when we had them share their feelings, we got a lot of:

  • Worried: I don’t know what I’ll choose. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do. What if my group doesn’t get along or pull their weight?
  • Scared: What if I do it wrong? What if I run out of time?
  • Nervous: I won’t get the help I’ll need. I’m unsure of what this will look like

But this time around, now that they’ve had a bit of time to experience Exhibition, we got a lot of:

  • I’m feeling good!
  • I’m Excited!
  • I’m Pumped!
  • I wish I could do this all day, every day, for the rest of my life!

The enthusiasm was palpable. The students are discovering themselves as learners, and what they’re capable of. They are pushing themselves to do things they may have never done before, they are dealing with the frustrations of not knowing all the answers, or how to do something the first time, and taking risks to try anyways, without fearing that what they’re doing is wrong. All because they are exploring a passion or an issue that is near and dear to them. It’s real. It’s magical!

I can’t believe that next week is the half way point – I can understand why some schools have Exhibition run as a 7, 8, or even 9 week unit! For our first one, we thought we’d stick to 6 weeks, but already I can see that in order to let students get to the depth they want to go in their research, plan and prepare their presentation, as well as perform their action, 6 weeks likely won’t be enough time!