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!
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!
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!
Jacqueline Harvey’s Virtual Visit
Random House Australia
Four months ago, best-selling author Jacqueline Harvey travelled to Beijing to conduct research for her next book, Alice-Miranda in China. She made a special visit to BISS, where the children shared their experiences of life in China, and suggested plotlines for her next story.
This week, Jacqueline Harvey checked in via Skype to share her progress. She showed her half-finished manuscript (already over 100 pages!), explained her gruelling schedule (7am – 6pm on writing days), and read funny excerpts aloud. We were among the first people in the world to access this sneak preview!
Read on for more details of her virtual visit. (Original image from Random House Australia).
1 crime. 4 suspects. 24 diligent detectives.
This is the case of the missing gingerbread men.
Last week, Grade 2 was outraged to discover that their baking had been stolen.
The thief left a footprint and carelessly dropped a few items, such as a scarf, coins and glasses. Clearly, the thief was in a hurry to flee the scene! Grade 2 quickly went to work. They photographed and bagged each piece of evidence, wrote detailed descriptions and inferred meaning from each clue.
For example, from one footprint, Kurtley inferred that the thief was an adult (after measuring the print’s length and width, and comparing it to her peers’ shoes), estimated the time of the crime (based on the dampness of the print), and made an informed prediction about the type of shoe and likely gender of its owner (based on the shape of the sole).
Read on to find out who committed the crime, how it was solved and most importantly…WHY all this drama is so powerful in education!
Last week, I wrote about the power of digital communities at BISS. And yet, I did not envisage how important these could be! Just days later, Beijing schools encountered temporary closure, which was sad for students, teachers and parents alike.
But, at BISS, learning, communication and connection kept our community thriving!
For 3 days, our devices did not stop buzzing. With great delight, we watched WeChat groups, class blogs and student blogs come alive with text, audio, images and videos of BISS students communicating their learning.
We saw children work on puppet shows, patterns, writing, reading, building, counting, cooking, dancing, research and more! Their minds were active and engaged.