This article illustrates the impact of lifestyle choices on human body systems, health and survival through an inquiry into the transdisciplinary theme of “who we are”.
We began our inquiries into the “who we are” unit by reading books and watching videos related to lifestyle choices for a healthy life. Building on our inquiries into foods from different cultures (during our inquiries earlier into “where we are in place and time”), students shared their favourite fruits and vegetables and discussed their nutritional values. They also shared their thoughts on “how to remain healthy and fit by adopting good choices and a healthy lifestyle” drawing inspiration from their healthy and fit role models. Students also looked at a health resolution to work towards. Conversations lead to a deeper understanding that a healthy life also entails mental health and happiness. Language integrated engagements beautifully captured our learners’ acknowledgement of the self and appreciation of the diversity around them. They displayed enthusiasm for learning new vocabulary and articulating their thoughts by writing poems related to this transdisciplinary theme.
Students demonstrated thinking and self-management skills as they collected data about their own food habits and lifestyle choices. After collecting and collating this data they shared it with their peers, displaying thinking skills as they drew comparisons between good and poor choices using peer feedback and reflected on healthy and unhealthy behaviours. They enjoyed this open-ended project presentation activity as it allowed them to express their findings in creative ways reflecting their individual styles and presentation skills.
The classroom’s inquiry environment and bulletin boards endorsed rich inquiries into this unit. Evidence of conversations and brainstorms in the form of mind maps, post-it notes, questions, fact-walls, demonstration of approaches to learning, and learner profile attributes during the various learning experiences, current action and intended future goals reflected the rich nature of inquiries into this theme.
Inquiries integrated seamlessly into subjects such as visual and performing arts, music, physical education and mathematics. In music, students were involved in activities like yoga, musical-movement, and responding to and creating different types of music for ‘atmosphere and mood’. In performing arts, learners were engaged in “improv theatres” to develop a cooking show or commercial for an aerobic routines/fitness/sport. They had to script, produce, “improv”, rehearse and perform play scripts and poetry for a deeper understanding of the role and use of language through intonation, mood, stillness and action for added impact during delivery. In visual arts, learners engaged in self-portraits to explore art as a form of self-expression and identity. They analyzed and drew ideas from self-portrait artworks by Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Chuk Close. During physical education activities such as running laps, long jumps, throwing and team sports enabled students to reflect on the importance of being physically active. In mathematics, students had the opportunity to gather, collate and reflect on data from their physical education and fitness activities through beep-tests (data), pulse-rate (time), jump-distance (measurement) and lap-time (time).
The highlight of the unit, however, was the seamless integration of life-science. Connections were made between form, function and connection of human body systems and lifestyle choices to sustain them for a lifetime of healthy living. ICT engagements partnered with our in-class inquiries and research in preparation for our summative assessment. We utilized hands-on science using Mystery Science, an online resource. Students made exciting connections during the experiments: making the working “robotic-finger” and testing their reflexes or the “hole-in-the-palm” activity for the connection between vision and the brain.
Talks by the school nurse (on hygiene at school and prevention of common play-ground injuries), the school chef (on the importance of healthy food choices), an ophthalmologist (how the eye works and how to keep it healthy) and a Skype conversation with a neuroscientist whose specialization is in the area of vision and the brain created rich classroom discussions and integrated inquires extending into the transdisciplinary connections made, enabled students to gain a deeper understanding of the personal, mental, social and physical aspects of “who we are” and what it means to be human.
Mission of Mystery Science: https://mysteryscience.com/mission
Niru Raghuram is a PYP educator with teaching experience in international schools in Singapore. Her teaching is based on the inquiry approach pedagogy – the core philosophy of the Primary Years Programme. Niru is a classroom teacher and Level-Coordinator for the year 4 team of teachers at EtonHouse International School, Singapore. As classroom teacher, her focus is on language, mathematics, social studies and science. Her passion for science and technology extend her commitment for teaching and learning in the school’s STEM and Makerspace arena. You can follow her on Twitter @NiruRaghuram.