Skeletons on Campus: Action in the PYP

IMG_4774 2This 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.



After one week, the students had found and identified a range of bone fragments, including parts of vertebrae, ribs, scapula, femur and even a jaw! It was time to call another expert!

Dr Kevin Keane, BISS parent and veterinarian, collected the artefacts for further analysis. He confirmed the bones’ names, provided fascinating information about the size and species of origin, and sent them back with clear, anatomical labels.



And the best part? This was not a planned inquiry. It cannot be found in our curriculum documents. It was not planned by teachers. Students led this inquiry from beginning to end, driven by their own curiosity, confidence in their mentors, and collaboration with peers.

In the PYP, student-led learning is called “action” and it is evidence that children are becoming independent, capable, responsible learners. Through this experience, BISS students applied research, thinking and communication skills. They developed deeper understandings of the skeletal system, and learned how to categorize, identify and document with accuracy. They read widely about archeology and biology, and wrote factual recounts (and plenty of fictional narratives!).

Sincere thanks to Mrs Burslem, Ms Bernadette and Dr Keane, who empowered students to learn beyond the school day, beyond the curriculum, and beyond our wildest dreams.

This kind of learning transforms minds and ignites lifelong passions for science and research.

On this memorable day, our children came to school as students and went home as archeologists.



Psst!  Are you curious about who or what was buried at BISS?

I’m not telling! Ask a Grade 3 archeologist!

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