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!
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!
And the winner is… confidence!
An unprecedented number of performers (52 in total!) took to the stage this year. Children aged 2 – 12 made us laugh, cry and cheer, as they shared talents of singing, dancing, piano, and even magic! It was especially wonderful to listen to Tian Yi (Gr 3) and Haiku (Gr 5) play traditional Chinese instruments.
Unlike many talent contests, there was NO winner. This event is non-competitive by design, to encourage risk-taking, creativity and expression. While it is important for children to experience winning and losing, competition is better placed in activities which provide opportunities to reflect, repeat and improve. Our Chess, Robotics and Basketball ASAs allow children to strive week after week to improve their skills in competitive situations. Instead, BISS Has Talent is a celebration of students’ passions and performance skills. It is an opportunity for children to choose to participate and shine on their own terms. This autonomy was evident in Eric’s (Gr 3) blog reflection. Take a moment to read about this exciting event through the eyes of a student!
Peek into Grade 1A! Photo credit: Annie Madigan
This week, we marvelled at reflection, responsibility and independence, as teachers sat back, parents leaned in, and children took charge of assessment in the PYP!
With parents in tow, students from Pre-K to Grade 5 conducted conferences about their growth as learners. They shared portfolios, as well as authentic inquiry experiences from daily life at school. Math investigations, writing activities, coding, blogging and even drumming ensued. BISS was buzzing with proud children sharing what it means to be an ever-improving learner.
Thank you, parents, for listening, asking questions, and affirming your child’s reflections. We hope you gained insight into their developing knowledge, understandings, skills and attitudes.Thank you, BISS teachers, for facilitating such a successful day of reflection.
When you arrive at BISS, the sense of community is palpable.
Near the front gate, 5-year-old girls play an invented game of tag, trust and fantasy with 11-year-old boys.
Across the school, buddy language sessions allow children to work with older students who share the same mother tongue. In their dominant language, students delve into literature, work on projects and share discoveries.
Read on for more examples of cross-age learning!
Look at the connection between Mrs Baker and this young learner! At BISS, students form close, trusting bonds with their teachers, from PreK through to Grade 12.
When these strong connections are established, students feel safe to express their personalities, develop language, ask questions, take risks, make mistakes… and ultimately, achieve at their full potential.
Kindergarten stepped into the principal’s role last week while Ms O’Dwyer was away.
As part of an inquiry into how schools function, Kindergarten took advantage of Ms O’Dwyer’s absence to take charge of BISS! Dressed in a jacket and pearls, they took their job very seriously! They sat up at the desk, solved important problems and typed on the computer. Watch some of the best principals in BISS history explain their duties!
Their comments show an understanding of the interconnectedness of roles within human systems, and an awareness of life beyond their own class experiences.
Thanks for taking the lead, Kinder! Our school was in safe hands, indeed!
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.
How ALERT are you right now?
- Can you identify and change your alertness for optimal learning in different situations?
- What type of sensory input do you seek to stimulate or soothe your mind?
- Do you need touch, movement, sound, sights or even eating?
It was a morning of rich learning last week, as the Elementary School Faculty worked with Kristi Troutman, Head of Occupational Therapy, from Olivia’s Place.
Over four hours, we learned about brain development and nervous system maturation, important aspects of sensory integration, and a wealth of practical strategies for supporting self-regulation in children.
Read on to find out more!