Backward planning, or planning with the end in view is one of the key elements that inform the IBPYP practice. The end or culmination of a students’ PYP journey is the Exhibition, i.e. the PYPx. It replaces examinations, end of elementary school standardized tests, end of key stage assessments or any of the different ways schools end the phase of primary/elementary/junior school education.
The PYP Exhibition held on 11 March 2021 is simply the showcasing of the independent yet collaborative inquiry students would’ve embarked on, long before the exhibition. Rigorous knowledge, understanding and skills would’ve to be built with the IBPYP framework in mind. This necessitates facilitation and support from teachers, mentors, and the PYP Coordinator, without compromising student independence and agency.
The GIIS smart campus has two 5th grade classes in its PYP section. The very last unit of the six units of inquiry for grade 5 was converted to the exhibition unit. Long before embarking on the unit, the homeroom teachers and the PYP coordinator worked with the students to clarify their understanding of the PYP.
Next, the students underwent an exercise in reflecting authentically into their own interests, passions and burning questions. They then came together to find common ground with their peers and formed groups. Each group took up an issue of global significance. Then they started their independent inquiry using the IBPYP framework. Each group was given a mentor who shared expertise or interest in the individual themes.
We decided to showcase the exhibition as a panel discussion, with question and answer sessions at the end of each panel’s presentation. The topics of significance and the group names were as follows:
1. Alpha explorers: human action and its impact on history
2. Cyber squad: the thrills and travails of digital media
3. Blue helmets: Global conflicts of different kinds and how we may manage them
4. Food quest: the enormous challenge that food production poses on the environment
5. Nine wonders of nature: Sustainable solutions to depleting natural resources
The students did an outstanding job of presenting their topic in all its depth and breadth, yet there was an inordinate amount of material from their research that could not be squeezed into the 20-minute panel discussion format, hence they shared QR codes with links to these materials. They also took on the spot questions from other students and answered them like professionals. A feat that would not have been possible had they not developed a comprehensive and conceptual understanding of their topics/themes.
‘Young experts on global issues’ was not a misnomer by any stretch of the imagination.