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The PYP exhibition: Sharing the planet


Sarosh Baria, grade 5 homeroom teacher, NSS Hill Spring International School, India

This article is a detailed description of grade 5 students’ journey of discovery and learning in relation to the PYP exhibition.

The students and teachers of grade 5 always await the most interesting part of the academic year which is the exhibition unit. It is the unit in which each and every concept, attitude, profile and skill can be touched upon, refined and enhanced. It is a period over eight weeks in which the teacher and student can explore the canvas of worldly knowledge with freedom, foresight and anticipation.

However, to necessitate the same, the exhibition unit has to be one which has substance, depth and width in its scope and inquiry. The students decided the unit to be studied under the transdisciplinary theme Sharing the planet. But, deciding on an exhibition unit called upon students to brainstorm about an issue with truly local to global significance. What could it be? What issue or issues could be bothering and affect 7.15 billion people all at once? The answer was simple – water; a resource without which all life is impossible.

A string of activities and learning experiences had to be planned out in such a manner that an inner calling, awareness and concern linked to the issue of water would be aroused in the mind and heart of each child. For the same:

  • The students went for a field trip to the animal hospital in Worli, Mumbai to have a look at a rain-water harvesting project.
  • They also saw videos linked to individual households, educational institutes, corporate houses and universities that have successfully invested in rainwater harvesting projects. These projects have lessened their reliance on water from municipal sources and brought about financial benefits.
  • The students were also exposed to YouTube videos that spread the awareness of water crises across the world and the little bit each individual can do.
  • Apart from audio-visual experiences, the students read a book entitled A long walk to water by Linda Sue Park. It is based on a true story of a boy named Salva Dut, hailing from Sudan who escapes ethnic violence back in the 1980s. He migrates to several refugee camps and then to Ethiopia with a group of people facing loneliness, hunger, thirst and threat to life. Once adopted by American couple in New York, Salva, then nearing his 20th birthday, raises millions of dollars to set up tube and bore-wells in home and rival territories in Sudan.
  • Newspaper clippings of drought worn Maharashtra and any other local or global location facing water crises began to trickle into class.
  • The students also saw a documentary entitled The agony of the Ganges which spoke of the effects of civil and industrial pollutants on one of the mightiest of rivers-one that supports the sustenance of over 400 million people.
  • It seems the students of grade 5 were doing exactly what they wanted to do – consider ‘water’ as the exhibition title.
  • The above activities had succeeded in ushering their interest towards ‘water’ as an issue under the transdisciplinary theme. To take this ahead the school had more experiences lined up for them.
  • A three day excursion to Pune and Ralegaon Siddhi was organized by the school for the students. The students visited Ralegaon Siddhi where they observed how villagers had indigenously set up check dams, wells and water catchment and rainwater harvesting facilities to mitigate the issues of water scarcity. They also learned about the role water plays in the life and financial success and stability of villagers. Apart from the above, the students visited one of the largest dairy farms in India to study the role and function of water in the cheese and milk processing plants.
  • Orientation to how to write a bibliography and citation, search for trustworthy web pages and sites; adhering to the universal norms of academic honesty made students realize that they had to research in ways that not only would end up bringing knowledge their way… but also that they had to do so in a responsible manner.
  • Orientation to the exhibition blog (an on-line database and interactive interface of teachers, mentors students and parents)… viewing of a PowerPoint of the exhibition guidelines and a run through of the exhibition process journey (2012) gave the student an idea, direction, guidelines and a road map on which they could see themselves going.
  • The students now exposed themselves to books in order to get an exposure to several topics that could be linked to water. Right from the role of water in experiments to global warming; from droughts in Africa to the industrial uses of water; from water pollution to the actions of individual and NGOs who work tirelessly around the clock to ease the crippling issues all over the world.
    Guest speaker giving an insight on industrial use of water

    Guest speaker giving an insight on industrial use of water

  • Guest speakers poured in to give in their perspective on water. Right from speaking about the industrial use of water, to ‘life-straws’- a hand-held tube, filtration device that allow people to drink right out of polluted waters. They also spoke of how bottled water was over 1900 times expensive as tap water- and just as safe. The students were just amazed at what was coming their way.
  • Teachers took the students to the chemistry lab to explain the water cycle and conduct other experiments which involved water in them.
  • A teacher of English came in explained how to write poems on water with the help of literary devices and figures of speech.

Students had now, over the past month, read, seen, heard and exposed to enough stimuli to make them narrow in understanding the wording of their central idea and lines of inquiry. However, this was a process that had to be approached with meticulous care and time-tested methodology. Why? This is because the heart of any unit lies in the depth, validity, scope, accuracy and applicability of the central idea and the lines of inquiry that stem out of them. In its correct formulation, alone lies a success to a great measure. Identification of the central idea and coming up with the lines of inquiry was a time-consuming process, but one that was done in a very systematic way.

Students working in groups to formulate the central idea

Students working in groups to formulate the central idea

The students placed themselves in groups of four and began making a place-mat. Following the above, students in groups of four, engaged themselves in a concentric circle activity in which they had to create three ‘circles’. The second shell or circle from outside had to be filled up with the topic of choice. The outermost one needed to be filled up with the concept that the topic under consideration would tap. The central circle (the innermost) had to be filled up with a central idea that borrowed the concepts from the ones stated in the outermost shell/circle. Each central idea was assessed by other students with the help of a check-list.

Alongside the formulation of the central idea, the students went for field trips on their own in society in order to understand what issues people faced linked to water supply in their locality. They conducted interviews by formulating relevant questions by themselves. These field trips made the students realize that water issues are prevalent everywhere in society; and a growing concern that the citizens can no longer ignore.

Discussing the Central Idea

Discussing the central idea

Armed with the knowledge explained and imbibed above, the students formulated several central ideas which were then analyzed, refined and altered. Subsequently, the students came-up with four lines of inquiry for the same with concepts that they highlighted or enhanced.

What is our purpose?

To inquire into the following:

  • Rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things
  • Communities and the relationships within and between them
  • Access to equal opportunities
  • Peace and conflict resolution

Transdisciplinary theme: Sharing the planet

Central idea: Water management plays a role which influences the environment

Lines of inquiry:

  • The role of water in the environment (function)
  • The relationship between water management and the environment (connection)
  • The change in the environment due to water management (change)
  • Our responsibility to maintain this balance in the environment (responsibility)
Students working with their mentors

Students working with their mentors

Once the central idea and the lines of inquiry were decided and finalized, the students approached their mentors and began to work under their guidance. Each student accessed a range of on-line and off-line resources, books, encyclopedias, magazines, newspapers, interview transcripts and field trip findings to decide upon a personal topic of their own. This was a very crucial step as each child would have a different nature and mode of inquiry as compared to everyone else. Students formulated concept questions linked to their topic and then had to select concept that they would have to showcase the understanding of on the final two days of the exhibition.

Students working in groups to formulate the central idea

Students working in groups to formulate the central idea

Using a range of multiple intelligences, the students began their research with much earnest. They made attempts to understand each aspect and fact, make sense of it and checked if it made sense and relevance to their personal topic of inquiry. They researched on each of the four lines of inquiry stated above… and then wrote their understanding of each line of inquiry as a part of the formative assessments. At each and every step of the way, the students created self assessment tools such as rubrics, anecdotal records and continuums to assess their understanding of the concepts and the lines of inquiry. Of utmost importance, students began to write a continuum before and during the exhibition to identify the profiles, attitudes and skills enhanced or brought out by each state of the exhibition… and any activity or learning linked to it.

Students of Grade 5 working on their presentation

Students of Grade 5 working on their presentation

Once the students had enough, data, information and facts, they began with making models, charts, PowerPoint presentations, HTML, drop-freezes, place-mats, comparative tools and projector based presentations. They revised all their data keeping in mind the lines of inquiry and the concept.

Students simultaneously worked in groups to practice for a skit, drama, mime, jingle, puppet show or a song that addressed water issues across the world.

Exhibition_NSS Hill Spring International School_image 8The action component saw the students meet people in society to ensure responsible usage, management and distribution of water, enroll themselves in an NGO that supplies water to drought stricken parts of the world and raise funds in their thousands of rupees to help pockets of society vulnerable to water scarcity. Others distributed devices that would filter dirty water at very low cost. The list could go on. After weeks of hard work and rock solid determination by each student under the guidance of their mentor… individually presented their understanding of the topic and the concept they chose to focus on, to parents and the school community. They also put up the skits, mimes, songs and jingles they had had been practicing since days on end. Their efforts were appreciated by one and all. The students showed great creativity in their presentation but moreover, they showed a deep conceptual understanding of their topics at hand.

Parents celebrating the journey of the exhibition

Parents celebrating the journey of the exhibition

In a nutshell, the exhibition proved to be a journey of discovery and learning; of deep realization that we humans, animals and plants reside on a planet which owes its life to a finite resource called water. It dawned upon the students that humans were responsible for much of water wastage, pollution, mismanagement and scarcity. They awoke to the dreadful reality that if the current trends of water mismanagement continued, future generations would face the risk of civil war and global war. To end on a good note, the students awoke to the fact that the future of the planet lay in their hands and in those who gained knowledge by listening to their final exhibition day presentation.

The original article can be found in the 2nd edition of the PYP Mumbai Network newsletter (2012).

Sarosh Baria has been in this current position for the last two years and prior to that he was a grade 3 homeroom teacher. He has been a football coach for a period of ten years. He teaches children and adults in the science of astronomy and sky-watching.


8 Responses to The PYP exhibition: Sharing the planet

  1. Aldo Anzures 15 October 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    Thanks a lot for sharing this experience. As an absolute fan of the exhibition I am pleased to see the commitment of the community, as well as how children got involved in the exploration of the lines of inquiry and eventually, the central idea. As of now, I have three questions and one comment:

    1) How did you balance the individual, team and group work?
    2) What were the specific responsibilities of the mentors? Did they meet with individuals or teams? how often?
    3) Did children get to use the planner? If yes, how?

    Finally, this is just a technical issue that might be interesting to address in further writings, but it is important to remember that the Learner Profile is just one, which has different components, called attributes: risk-taker, caring, knowledgeable, thinker, inquirer, etc. From my understanding, in the IB we don’t have many profiles, but we do have ten attributes that are part of the Learner Profile. I know that this kind of things may sound silly, but I know that in the verification and evaluation visits these are the little things that sometimes people point out.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this story!!!!


  2. Projestus Mutalemwa 16 October 2013 at 11:56 am #

    Thank you.The exhibition journey is primarily a domain cause of meaningful learning.It sets the students mindset on the application of the course of learning practices,application of skills-basically the skill of doubting and setting different points of view on issues taken on necessary traditional outlook.

    I love the nature of discoveries students developed as action of discovery.I would rather inquiry into their attitudes towards wastage of the non renewable resources.Much so my perspective would be the how the students create the course of action pro or contra the problem identified and link it to solutions.

    The exhibition experience is fantastic, it shows the students courage to learn independently and inquiry into human practices and criticize them.
    Thank you Sarosh.

  3. Christine Lederer 17 October 2013 at 3:16 am #

    Thank you for sharing your very thorough documentation of the Exhibition process. We also highly value the wonderful experience this kind of inquiry work gives our students!

  4. Sarosh Baria 20 October 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Good morning Aldo,
    At the outset, thank you very much for your feedback and appreciation as regards the article and its contents. I truly appreciate the same.
    The following are the replies to your question:
    1) Instances and frequency of group-based and team-based work was basically concentrated around the initial five weeks of the exhibition. Primarily, we had students working in groups for the formulation of the Central idea and the lines of inquiry as these require questioning, self-questioning, counter-questioning, verification and validation of the above. Students also conducted a peer appraisal system where they would appraise the central idea, lines of inquiry and the concepts of another group. During field trips too, student had to reflect on visual experiences as a group. To clarify things further, each mentor had around four to five students under him or her. They met as groups when the mentor had something common to say, add, inform or instruct regarding the process of the inquiry… an at other times hold group discussions, brainstorming processes. Each group had to come-up with a skit, mime, song, etc to be performed on the final day of the exhibition. For the same, the student had to meet-up amongst themselves… and at times under the guidance of the mentor, in order to practice the skit (to take as an example). As far as individual work is concerned, each student, by the 5th week, had identified the issue under which they would showcase their understanding of the unit. For example, John identified wished to showcase the understanding of the big idea via the topic- ‘Water issues in third-world countries’. He would then engage in individual work for the same. (Of course, under the guidance and supervision of the mentor). Writing reports, reflections, filling the exhibition journal, on-line research, intensive and extensive reading of literature in the LRC, formulating reflections for self-initiated field trips and interviews saw students working by themselves.
    2) For our exhibition, the mentor constituted an individual, selected from within the school community, to guide, prod, encourage, facilitate, monitor, help plan, organize, co-ordinate, control, evaluate and assist the student or the group of students under him or her, in the process of inquiry; be it constituted group or individual work. The entire time table of grade 5 is altered, for the duration of eight week exhibition. To clarify things further, we had earmarked a 2 hours 15 minutes each day for the exhibition, which was fixed from 10:15- 12:30 for each day of the week. This slot saw the students explore and engage in a host of activities; right from field trips, watching documentaries, peer assessment, self-assessment, interacting with guest speakers and engage in individual or group based research. But primarily, this slot saw a healthy interaction between the selected students and their mentor. Each child was told where he or she could meet the mentor. At times, the mentor himself or herself would come to the homeroom or in another section of school and interact with the students. Interaction with the mentors ensured everyone that students were on track. The last three weeks saw the instances of interaction between the students and the mentor, increase in number and depth.
    3) As mentioned in the article, the students spear-headed the entire formulation of the first five states of the planner. Stage four, which constitutes the activities and learning experiences the students would be exposed to, keeping the Kath Murdoch cycle, in mind, saw contribution by both the students and the teachers. Activities were planned, added, removed and streamlined as and when required. They suggested learning experiences to their homeroom teachers and mentors, who then scrutinized if the learning experience suggested by the student, could be weaved into the day or the week to come. All the above was done keeping the concept, lines of inquiry, Central idea and the descriptors of the Transdisciplinary theme in mind. Since the students had helped formulate, edit and implement much of the activities of the planner… the filling up of the stages 6 to 9 was again spear-headed by the students. After the exhibition drew to a close, a group of eight students would meet up for 45 minutes a day, over a period of a couple of weeks, to work on the task mentioned above.
    Hope the responses provided above clarify a few, if not all of the doubts you hold.
    Best regards,
    Mr. Sarosh Baria

  5. Sarosh Baria 20 October 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Thank you very much Projestus, for you timely and meaningful feedback. It just show that we, as an IB community, are on the right path with our students… and harbour the thought of sharing our learning and teaching strategies with each other.

    Yours faithfully,

  6. Sarosh Baria 20 October 2013 at 9:20 am #

    Dear Christine.
    It only brings me pleasure to know that the process of discovery and learning the students of grade 5 undertook last year, has gone beyond the portals of our school and infused with the extraordinary faculty of teachers that the IB community take pride in.
    Thank you so very much for your recognition of the work our students engaged in and put through with full earnest and zest over the course of the exhibition.

    Yorus faithfully,

  7. Yamini 8 March 2016 at 2:04 pm #

    Thanks for your details and explanations..I want more information from your side..I Am working in Aquafina Mineral Water In Chennai.

  8. Nisha Vahi 11 March 2016 at 11:21 am #

    Dear Yamini,

    Please email me at – [email protected]

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