Last week, our 4th and 5th graders completed their Exhibition unit. This six-week study is a collaborative, student-initiated process for students to explore, document, and share their understanding of an issue or opportunity of personal and global significance.
“Exhibition is an exciting time of learning and taking action that comes as older elementary students
begin to move from a self-centered view to a world view,” said Kate McElvaney, Director of Educational Advancement. “Students design their unit of inquiry as they examine a real-world problem, work with other students and teachers to explore solutions and ways to take action, and show what they have learned.”
Throughout Exhibition, students demonstrate their ability to take responsibility for their learning as they plan, present, and assess their findings. It’s the culminating, collaborative experience in the final year of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme for Lower Years students.
Exploring Sustainable Development
High Meadows began participating in Exhibition in 2007. The unit provides students the opportunity to:
- Learn about a real-world problem and work with others toward solutions
- Exhibit themselves as learners, embodying all the attributes of the Learner Profile
- Demonstrate their ability to create their own learning experiences
- Apply the transdisciplinary skills they have acquired to a new collaborative learning experience
This year, the students investigated the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations. In 2015, all members of the UN adopted 17 goals which provide a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet for now and into the future. The students explored six broad topics within the goals:
- Food, Hunger, and Sustainability – Researched a variety of topics including GMOs/food additives, food waste at restaurants and stores and how local non-profits are helping meet the food needs of people in our community.
- Peace and Justice – Explored how to find peace and justice through creating sustainable systems to improve gender equality, LGBTQ equality, planet protection, and water filtration.
- Infrastructure and Systems to Create Sustainable Communities – Learned about sustainable hydro systems that provide clean water and affordable energy.
- Why Not Women – Explored how to build bridges and level the playing field in tackling gender equality.
- Climate Change – Learned about climate change and sustainability and shared their experience via a Ted-style talk, simulation, diorama, interactive game, 3-D model, and presentations.
- Deforestation – Researched how deforestation impacts climate change, endangered species, and desertification and shared information about prescribed fires and other ways people can take action to protect forests.
Students Share Their Learnings
Fourth-grader Reese J. studied plastic pollution. “I learned that plastic pollution has been going on for
more than 69 years,” she said. “And, I learned that one million species can go extinct from pollution. My project went really well because every website I looked at had information about pollution.”
Fifth-grader Davis S. explored finding clean and affordable energy by looking at hydroelectric dams. “I learned that there are multiple ways to improve and create new ideas based on an old idea to produce clean and affordable energy.”
Fifth-grader James S. researched food waste. “I learned that it is a big problem and 1/3 of all food produced is wasted.” He shared that he learned during a field trip to an aquaponics farm that it is fertilized with biowaste from live fish in tanks.
The students work on a variety of skills during Exhibition:
- Choose a problem to research
- Reflect each week
- Meet with mentor weekly
- Develop clear question to guide their research
- Take notes and cite sources
- Write concise paragraphs related to their topic
- Plan and take action for their inquiry/real-world problem
- Create an engaging presentation
- Determine what they want to say about what they’ve learned
- Take action
- Practice their presentation
- Complete final reflections
For the final part of Exhibition, students reflect on what and how they learned as well as how they might continue to take action toward solutions to the problems they identified. The unit is a powerful learning opportunity for students and the school community.