Our learning community has been challenged to use the best elements of remote and online learning to make our Exhibition happen, promoting our student agency and our innovative spirit. Both parents and students became our source of inspiration, reaffirming that working together is the way to achieve our goals.
By Damaris Olarte Beltrán and Eliana Mabel Solano Rangel
Along with this rapid and unexpected change, due to the worldwide situation, we had to face and combine the best of remote learning and online learning, to rethink the way we were going to work on our PYP exhibition. There were so many questions that started to pop out towards it and as we all know, the main purpose of this experience is to celebrate learning, so the very first idea that came to our minds was: how we will make it happen? We started to read and attend some webinars, where teachers all over the globe were looking for the same answer. After discussing some ideas as a team, we reflected upon our community and what our students were expecting, which guided us to make some decisions.
For us, the main purpose was to connect our students’ inquires to their emotional health, taking into account they needed to feel that all the research and effort they had done some months ago was worth it. As teachers and mentors of this process, our priority became guiding our students through a new path that we haven’t experimented with either, but with the clear idea that there would be a celebration of learning. Therefore, we explored some sources for our students to share the knowledge they have acquired and to present the actions they have built up with the hope of making an impact in our community and be listened to by them.
Although it wasn’t that easy since both our students and parents were worried about all the changes they had to do, the idea of learning how to use the technology they weren’t used to, and the possibility of modifying the actions they have planned for a long time ago. But, our students were resilient and made evident all we have taught them about being open-minded and gave as a lesson of what the concept of Agency meant out of the school buildings.
Taking into account that not only students but also parents were part of this and played an important role in the Exhibition process, we decided to send a survey in which parents could express their concerns and ask all questions they had. Then we had parent meetings to share with them the new path we were going to be walking to culminate our PYP and how we needed them to support and motivate their kids, because, as for any other project, engagement and motivation were key. It was very interesting and twice as motivating to see how they responded, showing their support and understanding the importance of their presence, especially in this situation we are facing nowadays.
It was clear that some of their products had to be adapted but our students moved rapidly to the ideas we proposed and engaged to the platform we chose for them to share their projects. Their creativity went to the roof, they worked hard to find solutions and most importantly they developed more flexible thinking, exploring multiple possibilities to communicate their learning experiences, ideas, and knowledge. We ended up using an online platform to display our students’ inquiries as a way to make their thinking visible transforming our Exhibition into a scenario to collaborate with others, being part of a wider
learning community, making innovations, using this situation of staying at home as an advantage to involve more parents and letting our kids have a place to leave their minds to speak up!!
As mentors, our role experienced a new challenge too, we had to provide more constant feedback, without following strictly our school schedule and understanding that our kids needed more of a person to listen to and support them rather than an instructor just giving them some guidelines. We had to move from our comfort zone after working together as mentors for the last five years, transforming our practice, and being more aware of how to develop the approaches to learning they needed to succeed and ensure a meaningful learning experience. More than ever, our Exhibition became a window for parents to have
a closer look at what their kids were learning and the skills they were strengthening.
After weeks of wondering if we were making the right decisions, we started to get our final results. We found out that our learning community, students, parents, and teachers are a formula of endless love. With no doubt, our 11 and 12-year-old students were, and will always be our inspiration. They showed us that they are truly a strong generation, handling challenges we have never expected, always with a smile, living their childhood through a camera, working independently, enjoying being together through a virtual environment, and inspiring and confirming our passion for teaching and our dream to shape leaders of the future.
And, that was how our students taught us a new way to celebrate learning!
Damaris Olarte Beltrán has been working with the PYP for the last 10 years, teaching Unit of Inquiry and Mathematics. She is a Modern Languages Teacher and she has a Master’s degree in Investigation and Pedagogy. She is deeply interested in cooperative learning strategies and pedagogy of alterity.
Eliana Mabel Solano Rangel teaches Unit of inquiry and Mathematics since 2014 in the PYP. She is an English and Spanish teacher, a Specialist in Education Management, and a Master’s in Psycho pedagogy. Her passion is to learn and put into practice new strategies for inclusive education and differentiated instruction.