Making real-life connections to events strengthens students’ conceptual understanding across subjects, enabling them to transfer their learning and draw meaningful inferences. They develop a broader appreciation of what it means to be citizens of the world. It gives them an opportunity to connect with their learning, a sense of purpose to their experience and enables their voice to shine through.
As an IB school true to its philosophy, it is our constant endeavour to develop well-rounded students with character who respond to challenges with optimism and an open mind, make connections to real life to extend their learning and are prepared to apply what they learn in real-world, complex and unpredictable situations. We are a very young candidate school growing in our learning.
Our students of Form 4 were inquiring into How we organize ourselves with the central idea Government systems can contribute to the quality of life citizens lead with the lines of inquiry as:
- How government systems work
- Impact of governance on the development of a country
- Active citizenship
The unit began when the world was reeling under the attack of Covid19. The learning had shifted from secure engaging classrooms to remote learning sessions and the unit was now being inquired into through zoom sessions. By the second week into online learning, students were now comfortable and conversant with using various tech tools to enhance their learning. Taking on this opportunity, they were encouraged to collaborate and inquire to gather information.
The students’ prior understanding was gauged by each one of them discussing the structure and roles of different organisations. Beginning from their home to comparing the different other organizations like the sports organization, market organization, housing organizations etc. The students also spoke of how our city is also an organisation and this brought about students discussing how our country works and who was the head.
The inquiry very smoothly moved towards students wanting to explore how our Prime minister and the government are connected? Who is the government? Why doesn’t every country have a Prime Minister as the head?
These questions became our guiding questions for the inquiry to begin. True to the inquiry spirit, they began to find out what government is by digging into the dictionary. Searching through the online dictionary, also brought various examples of different countries to their attention. They further decided to work on Padlet and plotted the countries each one of them wanted to inquire into. The heads of these countries were researched, along with their function and role. Inspired by the famous Gummy bear activity, the students were encouraged to represent their understandings using household items to represent the types of government from the various task cards. This truly developed their self-management skills, as in a lockdown situation with lack of resources at home, they were sensible in making choices and using appropriate material. Each student tried to represent the type of government for their country showcasing the essential features and function of these governments. This caused them to think critically and transfer their learning. This information was shared with peers using MS PowerPoint online.
By this time the COVID19 situation around the world was worsening. The numbers were on the rise in India too. The Indian government had declared lockdown and sealing of places where cases were detected. A case was detected in my housing society and it was sealed by the government. I took this chance to share with students the decisions the government was taking to control the spread and at the same time take care of citizen needs. I took pictures of police officers around the community, fire engines sanitizing the city, government trucks providing basic essentials and many more. These were shared with students and students critiqued the positives and negatives of the impact of such harsh decisions. The students were truly being inquirers now and curious with questions. Their questions varied from how will completely sealing society help? How will people manage without stepping out of the house? Will the government look into hygiene and other housekeeping logistics? They were constantly exploring why the situation is the way it is. Can anything else be done? How is the country taking these decisions?
In the country the first phase of lockdown was over, and the PM was addressing the nation. This was once again a real-life connection to find answers to all their intriguing questions. All the students heard the speech and then collectively once again shared how in democracy the decision was taken collectively, what implications of decisions were taken into account and what preparation was done to safeguard the citizens before implementing the lockdown 2.0. All these real-life connections were helping them not only deepen their conceptual understanding but also develop their thinking skills.
The next question that came to students’ mind was to inquire worldwide into the responses and reactions of people towards government decisions. They also wanted to inquire into which has been the most impactful decision so far and why. A Microsoft form was created collaboratively and floated among the school community, and on social media for variety in responses. The data collected was from various countries. Math data handling was naturally integrated wherein students explored plotting graphs on MS Excel and explored the various tools and types. Data was analysed for different countries for the government impacts and also what essential factors people look for in a government before elections. By now the students had taken ownership of their learning and were making informed choices of how to transfer their learning and apply it to real life. They were clued in to the latest happenings around the world and the role each government was playing to contribute to the safety and health of its citizens. They drew a comparison using Venn diagrams by comparing decisions taken by the USA government and the Indian government.
To have further real-life experience, we connected with a school in Egypt to interact with students there to understand what they were doing to help and perform their responsibilities in maintaining the government decisions. This brought students to inquire deeper into the rights and responsibilities of children. They were curious to find what their rights were. This began a reading of the UNICEF charter and sharing of the rights and responsibilities of children. The students got into a debate about how some of their rights were being denied in this lockdown versus how it was having a positive effect too. They organized a debate using Jam board and Kialo with Form 5 students on “We should not go back to normal, because normal was the problem”. They ensured they were all principled and during online debating adhered to the essential agreements set for our online classroom.
Finally, to showcase their learning so far, they were formed a government and listed actions to take when the first COVID19 case was detected. In groups they created a make-believe country and decided on a specific type of government. The roles were chosen for the different heads of government. The steps were listed to control the spread, keeping in mind the rights and responsibilities of citizens.
It was a pleasure and very satisfying to see this young generation eager to heal the world and forgo their needs and wants, thus, stating that they want to be active citizens and displaying qualities of active citizenship. This was truly a depiction of young citizens ready to take on the future world.
Sonia Singh is the PYP Coordinator at Prometheus School, Noida, India. She has over 12-years’ experience in the education sector. She conducts regular webinars and workshops for teachers to share best philosophies for effective student learning and teacher well-being. Her constant endeavor is to make learning meaningful and support innovation and connection amongst educators.