concluding a unit of inquiry

Before the winter break, I shared the inquiry cycle with you, focusing in on what was happening in each grade level. I briefly outlined the different learning experiences and explained where in the inquiry cycle the students were within their Unit of Inquiry.

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Our fourth graders are currently wrapping up their Where We Are in Place and Time unit in which they explored the concepts of migration, connection, and perspective.  They spent the last five weeks tuning in to what they already knew about migration (4th grade Social Studies state standards primarily focus on Texas history so this was the central focus for the students), actively engaged in different learning experiences to find out and sort through new information, and went further in their inquiry during their field trip to San Antonio.

During the last week of each Unit of Inquiry (each unit is about 6 weeks long), students spend a majority of their time reflecting and making connections between the transdisciplinary theme (in this case Where We Are in Place and Time) and the central idea. This can look differently depending on the classroom, but some ways that students spend this reflection/connection time might be through whole class discussions or a written reflection. Using their PYP folders and/or journals, students synthesize their learning that has taken place over the last five weeks to demonstrate their understanding of the central idea through the summative or final assessment. A summative assessment is never a traditional test or multiple choice answer sheet. It usually contains an open ended assignment or task (assessed with a class created checklist or rubric) that provides students a choice of medium or creative expression of their ideas.

To assess the students learning of their unit, “Students will share their information by writing a fictionalized first person account that demonstrates the perspectives of the immigrants as well as the locals.” Before this task could be completed by the students, however, the fourth grade teachers had one final learning experience for the students.

The teachers invited a panel of parents to come and share their individual story of immigration. Parents were asked to share where they immigrated from and how their immigration experiences changed them as people.IMG_5803

With such a diverse population here at Spicewood, we were fortunate to have to very diverse panel (Italy, Malaysia, Germany, India and China) represented to our fourth graders, giving them an opportunity to listen to different perspectives on immigration. And although our panel came from different countries around the world, each story had similar underlying themes; freedom, opportunity and inclusion. Overall, the participants shared that they felt that in the United States there is freedom to “do what you want because of who you are” and the overall acceptance and open-mindedness of the United States.

Some other surprises or culture shock our immigrants experienced…

I thought that there was a curfew in the United States because I didn’t see many people walking around the streets. In India there are always people walking around everywhere (because their population is over 1 billion!) and when I didn’t see people around I thought there must be a curfew if there were no people out. 

I thought that the reality of the United States was what I saw on TV- nice cars, homes, everyone looking the same. I found that there are homeless people in some areas (Los Angeles was the specific area described) and that around one corner there could be lots of nice homes, meanwhile, the other corner doesn’t have the same amount of wealth in the area.

I found that the United States allows you to do what you want if you work for it. Even if you don’t know the language, people are accepting of that and supportive. You have the flexibility to move different fields if you want. You do not have to be set on a certain career.

The people here are accepting of different languages and cultures. People ask me how to pronounce my name and are careful to say it correctly. At first I didn’t think I would be able to keep my language and culture (after I moved from India), but found that the US is respectful of my culture and I can still practice my traditions and festivals. 

What an amazing first hand experience for our fourth graders right?! As part of the Learner Profile attributes, perspective and reflection play a significant role in Spicewood’s vision of preparing our students to be “a community of caring, global-minded thinkers”.  It’s clearly evident that our fourth graders were given the opportunity to see and model these traits with this well crafted learning experience. A big thank you goes out to all of the parents who volunteered for this event!

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