PYP Exhibition: Our Focus and Beginnings

A two-week holiday, and now we’re back, and I’m itching to write. My life and my students’ lives, over the next two weeks, will be consumed, immersed, engaged and submerged in the PYP Exhibition.

IMG_3817For the 3rd year, we’re running the Exhibition under the theme, “How We Express Ourselves.”  Our central idea is that “People’s beliefs and passions can inspire and sustain learning.” We start with the student and their passion and then link to the outside world. We try to focus on how people use their interests to drive them and motivate them. Before I delve into it, let me say students are enthusiastic. They love working on their Exhibition.

“Passion is what drives us crazy, what makes us do extraordinary things, to discover, to challenge ourselves. Passion is and should always be the heart of courage.” — Midori Komatsu

Over the next few blog posts, I’d like to break down our Exhibition journey. It helps me get focused, and I’ve had a lot of questions from others about how we do it.

History: First, a bit of history on where the idea on passion came from. Three years ago, we were doing our Exhibitions as I think many schools have and still do them. We chose a theme and then brainstormed issues related to that them with the students. Our theme was “How We Organize Ourselvers,” and we thought of governments and then came up with issues 0n terrorism, army, politics. We guided the students and then they chose something they thought they would be interested in. As it turned out, the topics were way beyond the reach of the students and a bit depressing. It was a year of some very immature kids, but granted, anyone grappling with terrorism or the UN or how the US army works is bound to have some confusion. One student had to be called in for a conference with the principal and headmaster because he had turned himself into a terrorist online and was leaving strange messages. Another student decided the best way to take action would be to hold a bake sale for the US military. Hmmm. Students’ end product was shoddy, and we could tell that students really didn’t understand the issues. Superficial.

Moving On: My colleague and I attended a PYP Exhibition workshop the following year, and after talking with educators from around the world, we all discussed this problem of students developmental levels and engagement with Exhibition. Exhibition is the culmination of years in the PYP. It’s the grand end product that pulls together skills, learner profile, attitudes and shows what the student has learned. It should address real issues…However, just zooming in on the real issues wasn’t cutting it for our students. So, we decided to start with the students–their passions and work out from there. We changed the theme, came up with the central idea about how passion motivates and sustains us and went for it.

Initial Results:

  • Student engagement went way up. They were looking at themselves, their favorite topic.
  • Their communication skills were much more fluid. Both in writing and in speaking, they could express themselves well because the topic was familiar.
  • Fun. The topic were more fun and happy. We weren’t depressed by children starving, being sold into slavery, gun violence, living in fear. Those are real issues, but they’re heavy. The first Exhibition on passion was lighter.

Things to Improve:

  • Connecting their passion to a real-life issue
  • Documenting their journey better
  • Digging deeper..beyond what the students knew.
  • Finding like-minded people who could guide them.

Next Post: Part 2: The Students’ Journey


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