As we say farewell to our Grade Seven students in a few weeks time, I am confident that they are well prepared for the challenges and demands of high school and what lies beyond. As IB students, their learning experiences have been engaging, relevant, challenging and significant. Their readiness for high school was particularly evident throughout the Exhibition process which entailed working collaboratively on projects under the transdisciplinary theme, “Sharing the Planet”. Students inquired into issues of relevance and interest to them, conducted extensive research, explored a variety of perspectives, and offered viable solutions to problems and issues. They went on field trips, interviewed experts, and used a variety of online and print resources while researching. Students demonstrated different ways of taking action as a result of their learning. Drugs and alcohol, gangs and crime, homelessness, and eating disorders were just a few of the complex topics our students tackled with an amazing sense of maturity.
Each of the twelve groups had a teacher mentor to support them throughout the six week exhibition process. I had the pleasure of supporting a group of four students who were interested in researching ‘child labour’. This group looked at the origins of child labour and investigated which countries and companies use child labourers today in the production of goods. A field trip to Free the Children where they interviewed experts helped solidify their understanding. They were shocked and saddened to learn that over 200 million children in our world work as child labourers. Their passion to make a difference was fueled by their new learnings. Pictured below are Carly, Monica, Lewis, and Jasmin during their visit to Free the Children.
Visiting Free the Children headquarters is just one example of the rich learning opportunities afforded our students through the Exhibition process. Other groups visited Westminster House, a downtown food kitchen, and interviewed a police officer. It is my hope that many of our students continue to explore issues of local and global significance in years to come and continue to have the desire to better our world. It is up to us, the adults in their immediate world, to facilitate these opportunities and provide encouragement for them in their journey.
The Ministry is making significant changes to the curriculum and assessment practices to address the fact that learning in the 21st Century looks differently than in the past. In a previous post, I commented on how changes in the curricular framework, including fewer prescribed learning outcomes, will allow for deeper learning to occur. In addition, there will be an increased focus on these five competencies which will be embedded across the curricular areas -- communication, critical thinking, creative thinking and innovation, personal responsibility and well-being, and social responsibility. I saw evidence of each of these competencies throughout the students’ engagement with their Exhibition projects. While researching their lines of inquiry, students had to think critically while analyzing and synthesizing the information. They presented confidently in front of their audience, communicating their ideas thoughtfully and clearly. Creativity was evident in the variety of ways they chose to present their information and in the fine arts component of their projects. Working in a group demanded that each member took responsibility for their learning and fulfilled the tasks assigned. And of course, each group demonstrated social responsibility through self-initiated, authentic action.
When this group of students entered Kindergarten in September 2004, a relatively short time ago, teaching and learning looked significantly different than it does today. As I welcomed our new Kindergarten students to our school a few weeks ago at an orientation session, I couldn’t help but wonder what school will be like when they 'graduate' from West Bay in 2020. What exciting times ahead for both our little learners entering elementary school and for our Grade Seven students on the brink of entering the next significant phase of their learning journey. Armed with the knowledge, skills and attitudes essential for success, they are ready to be active, compassionate difference-makers in our rapidly changing world.