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!

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