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Student agency designs learning space

Hafsa Syeda, PYP teacher, Stonehill International School, India

This article talks about Primary Years Programme students inquiring into the physical and virtual public spaces. As part of their action, students chose to design the mother tongue space for the library.

The beauty of the Primary Years Programme (PYP) is the empowerment of students during their learning journey and also as a result of their learning. P6 students (8-9 years old) started their academic year by inquiring into the central idea Physical and virtual public spaces provide people with opportunities to make connections and establish a sense of community under the transdisciplinary theme How we organize ourselves.

During the unit of inquiry, students differentiated between physical and virtual spaces and identified the importance, need and purpose for each. They looked at different public spaces in the school and brainstormed several ideas to redesign a space for the learning and teaching community. Some of these ideas included improving the design of the PYP field, the breakout space outside the P6 classrooms and the PYP library.

First draft of the library design

The students chose to redesign the PYP library by adding a home and family languages section. The teachers and PYP coordinator ensured that students were off to a successful start in their journey by involving experts in the field of architecture and design from our community, and arranging visits to different libraries in the city.

Students contibutions

Students visited the Atelier D’Arts & Architecture firm to understand how the idea of a physical space develops from the concept of a virtual space. The architecture firm conducted a design workshop where students were mentored to design the space and shelving for the home and family languages library section. Students came back enriched with knowledge and ideas for their library. The mathematics focus on shape and space for the unit of inquiry enabled them to apply their knowledge to design this section of the library. Students continued to brainstorm additional ideas in the classroom, then worked on a plan and created a second and third draft.

Second draft of the library design

Third draft of the library design

Next, they visited the British Council Library and the Alliance Française to see how the libraries were organized. After their return, students reflected on the overall design, including furniture and arrangement of books in the two libraries, compared them to their PYP library and incorporated a few more ideas into their plan. During the design process, students looked at their peers’ plans and gave each other feedback and suggestions for improvement. They were enthusiastic, cooperative and collaborative during the task and used persuasive language to convince others in their groups to include their ideas in the plan. The students’ final designs included a description of the space in the library they have chosen for home and family languages section as well as detailed illustrations of furniture with measurements.

For the summative assessment, students presented their final designs, explained why their design was suitable for the PYP students and assessed the other groups using a rubric.

Creativity was evident throughout the unit of inquiry. Some of the ideas for the library included a tree book shelf, a cozy section with stuffed toys, bean bags and synthetic grass carpet, lower book shelves with different flag colours and a colourful caterpillar shelf for different language books.

Bookmarks in different languages

We have now completed our first unit of inquiry, but action is ongoing and the students are eager to see their virtual designs transformed into reality.

Poster for mother tongue books

It is great to see students enthusiastically take ownership of their learning.

Syeda Hafsa Quadri is a primary teacher at Stonehill International School, Bangalore, India and have taught in PYP schools for 5 years. She is passionate about inquiry-based teaching and learning and constructivist methodologies that empower students to make a difference in the global world. You can follow her on Twitter @HafsaQuadri.

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9 Responses to Student agency designs learning space

  1. Deepa 3 April 2018 at 8:01 pm #

    Loved the idea and unit.

    Can you share the plan please.

  2. CATRIONA TUIMAKA 4 April 2018 at 6:57 am #

    Love that you were able to include some excursions to enrich this unit, empower the students.

  3. Katina Seymour 5 April 2018 at 11:23 pm #

    Enjoyed reading the post. The celebration of the ‘mother tongue’ is so important for our students. It gives a sense of identity, belonging, and appreciation. I’d love to see what the rubric looks like.
    I am all for peer and self-assessment – creates a stronger ownership level of personal and collaborative learning responsibility.

  4. @inachakraborty 10 April 2018 at 5:26 pm #

    @HafsaQuadri love your article and action component of mother tongue in the PYP inclusive classroom. Hope to read and enjoy many more articles of yours. Well done!

  5. Hafsa 19 August 2018 at 4:25 pm #

    Dear Deepa,

    Kindly find the link for the the plan for this unit.

  6. Hafsa 19 August 2018 at 4:48 pm #

    Dear Katina,

    Please find the link to the rubric.

  7. Ashwin S 27 November 2018 at 4:25 pm #

    Lovely idea.. Better insight into developing student agency with the process of designing learning space..
    It acts an encouragement to the students who possesses ownership on personal basis and effective in collaborative learning..

  8. Veraxe 8 December 2018 at 3:05 pm #

    useful info related to schools


  9. Iman Habboucheh 4 April 2019 at 7:26 am #

    Wonderful! I feel that children appreciate and feel that their ideas are valued when they are given the opportunity into taking agency.

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