What a fantastic year! It certainly flew by in a flurry of passionate inquiry and connected learning. Driven by a desire to question, explore and discover, our children achieved academic success and exciting personal progress.
The combination of Individualised attention, innovative teaching and rigorous challenge is a hallmark at BISS. Our programme empowers students to be confident, critical thinkers with their own goals, opinions, and creative expression. As this year’s inquiries unfolded, students gained deeper insight into themselves, their community and the wider world.
Read on for a summary of the exciting “firsts” from 2015/16!
We are very proud of our Grade 5 class, who graduated from the Primary Years Programme last week. This class will be remembered for their energy, larger-than-life personalities and great leadership of the Elementary School.
Dressed in suits and skirts, they certainly looked grown-up and ready to join the Secondary School! Mr Hawke reflected on their growth as problem-solvers. Chihiro (Grade 5) spoke about his personal journey as a language learner and the culture of caring at BISS. Dr Underwood explained the value of persistence for their future endeavours.
Most touching, were the students’ messages to each other. Each student acknowledged the way a classmate embodies a Learner Profile attribute.
And, with their final dance moves, we were reminded that this class is one-of-a-kind!
We will certainly miss you in the Elementary School, Grade 5. Congratulations on reaching this milestone in your education!
Authenticity is at the core of our practice at BISS, as we regularly design “real” learning experiences, instead of relying on hypothetical tasks or textbooks. In this way, our curriculum becomes relevant, complex and exciting.
Authenticity is often achieved by venturing off-campus to a professional industry (such as a medical lab – Gr 5, or an organic farm – Gr 3). We also utilise BISS experts (such as Mrs Burslem for experiments, or Mr Mac for robotics), and guest speakers (such as authors, doctors & professors, to connect their expertise to our inquiries). In Mathematics, children solve genuine problems (such as measuring the track – Kinder), rather than filling in worksheets.
Read on for the story of a wonderful “keep it real” math lesson!
This is the story of inquiry at its very best. One afternoon, while playing in the garden, a group of students uncovered an old bone fragment. Bypassing their elementary teachers (who were clearly unqualified!), the children burst into Mrs Burslem’s Biology Lab and announced, “We’ve made an important discovery!” Mrs Burslem immediately left her staff meeting and spent the afternoon inspecting, discussing and validating the students’ find.
The next day, the area was cordoned off with a child-made sign heralding an “Archaeological Site”, grid lines were marked, shovels found for efficient digging, brushes used for cleaning and scientific diagrams drawn to document each new discovery.
As the days went on, archaeology fever took hold of the school! Students from Kindergarten to Grade 5 joined the dig, gathering at recess and lunchtime to continue their work.
It has been exciting to watch the evolution of WeChat as a tool for communication and community-building at BISS this year. WeChat is a social networking app used by over 650 million people in China, with 1.1 billion active accounts.
Thanks to dedicated Class Parents, who initially set up, moderated and posted content, BISS now has 7 thriving grade level communities. (And more! WeChat is also used extensively by the Athletics Department, the PTA, and many students in informal social & academic groups.)
In the Elementary School, the power of instant translation, just-in-time reminders and media sharing has strengthened our sense of belonging and connection within class communities.
Teachers have enriched the experience, by posting photos and videos throughout the day, creating a real-time window into life at BISS. The separation between home and school is ever diminishing, as parents gain insight into inquiry learning, appreciate joyous moments, see discoveries happen, and understand their child’s day-to-day experiences.
Read on to find out what happened next!
Buddy Reading has certainly evolved since it began at BISS. In the beginning, our goal was to honour cultural identity and foster Mother Tongue reading skills. Cross-age literacy sessions focused on students reading in their native languages, to build conceptual connections, linguistic understanding and vocabulary transference.
It worked well. But BISS is a place of innovation! As teachers collaborated and students formed relationships, the programme began to change. Now called Buddy Learning, it is a rich, multi-faceted programme of inquiry. Students still share Mother Tongue literature, but buddy classes also engage in exciting projects, which build many more skills across the curriculum. In multi-age, multi-lingual situations, students develop research skills, language in all its forms (speaking, listening, reading, writing, viewing, presenting), digital literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills, while experiencing peer teaching, social mentoring, and authentic feedback.
Read on to see how Pre-K & Grade 3 celebrated Earth Day as Buddy Learners!
Buddies Celebrate Earth Day from Shannon O’Dwyer on Vimeo.
A baby bump is certainly a provocation for inquiry! BISS students have watched Wu Laoshi’s pregnancy with growing fascination. In the final week, Grade 3 asked thoughtful questions about her new role as a mother. This dialogue is part of a year-long inquiry into celebrations. Guided by Ms Bernadette, students have studied celebrations of meaning to the class in real-time, including Chinese New Year, Diwali and Thanksgiving. Stay tuned here for conceptual understandings and culminating reflections.
Best wishes, Wu Laoshi! We have enjoyed celebrating this milestone with you, and can’t wait to meet the newest member of our BISS community!
What a powerful Exhibition! Grade 5 provoked us all to think about the Earth, our responsibility as humans, and the importance of conflict resolution.
We are extremely proud of their commitment, independence, collaboration, communication, and deep analysis of local and global problems related to Sharing the Planet.
Thanks to the whole ES teaching team for investing in this inquiry: Mr Hawke (Gr 5), Ms Jennifer (PYP Coordinator), Ms Vicky (EA), Mr Dopart (ESOL), Mr Mac (E-Learning), Wu Laoshi and Li Laoshi (Chinese), Miss Collins and Miss Tracy (Art), Miss Carolina (Music), Mr T. and Mr. Leo (PE), Ms Atkins (SS Drama), Ms Lara, Ms Inna, Ms Annie & Ms Bernadette (Mentors) …who ALL ensured that skills were honed and concepts explored at deeper & deeper levels, transcending schedules and subjects.
Through their presentations, performances & action, Grade 5 assured us that they are peace-makers, change-makers and custodians of a brighter, better planet.
And now..how will we respond to their challenge?
It was wonderful to welcome our former E-Learning Coordinator, Julie Lindsay, to visit BISS. She is now the author of 2 books on connected teaching, founder of Flat Connections and a university lecturer in online education. The premise of Julie’s work is that open, connected, integrated learning creates social change.
Through online projects, students around the world learn in cross-age, cross-school, cross-cultural groups. They use digital tools to research and share understandings, grappling with topics such as climate change, community structure and digital citizenship. Students create media products, incorporating the perspectives and experiences of their far-flung peers.
BISS has participated in Flat Classroom and Digi-teen projects for many years. In the future, PYP & MYP classes will continue to collaborate with Julie Lindsay, so BISS students engage in rich online learning, communicate with authentic audiences, develop international mindedness and become discerning digital citizens. Mr K. has great plans for including global feedback in the Design/Tech curriculum.
Read on to learn how Gr 3 & 4 began the conversation!
Authentic Learning in a Responsive School
As part of an inquiry into persuasive texts, Grade 2 wrote letters to the principal, requesting improvements to BISS. The most common demand from our 7-year-old learners was an extension to daily playtime. Not convinced by writing alone, Ms O’Dwyer went to battle. She faced off against Grade 2 in a public debate at assembly.
Grade 2 presented four strong arguments: play helps us make friends; play teaches us to be caring; play is a form of exercise, which makes our bodies healthy; play helps us concentrate and learn in class. They added examples and explanation to support each argument. Despite Ms O’Dwyer’s best efforts to rebut and defend instructional time, it was to no avail. Judged by Elementary School “clap-o-meter”, the deafening applause from 160 students made Grade 2 the clear winner!
Read on to find out what happens next!