Millennials?! Who Needs ‘Em?

Ah….we do. The six millennial Co-Chairs of this year’s Annual Meeting have delivered a strong call to action to participants in Davos. Their stories ask us to consider:

  • refugees
  • climate change
  • sustainable development
  • circular economies
  • reimagining education
  • global food crisis

Mohammed Hassan Mohamud is a Somalian refugee who has spent the last 20 years living as a displaced person in Kenya. His speech (which is appropriate for elementary students) is passionate, quiet, and real. He says to the leaders in Davos:

My story is inspiring, I get that….but what will it inspire you to do?

Mohammed Hassan Mohamud

What will it inspire you to do?

Mohammed’s speech is about 4 minutes long. It is about as long at the “viral” video of a group of catholic school boys and a Native American elder. I would suggest that if you ask in the break room if your colleagues have heard about the “catholic kids” or the “Davos refugee”, one will rise quickly above the other in the “most viewed” list. However, to both videos, I would say, “What will it inspire you to do?”.

For me, the response is: build empathy to inspire action. Empathy on it’s own is not enough. Consider this:

“Empathy is not endorsement. Empathizing with someone you profoundly disagree with does not compromise your own deeply held beliefs and endorse theirs. It just means acknowledging the humanity of someone who was raised to think differently.”

Dylan Marron

Dylan explains this further in his TED talk (below) and was inspired to create a podcast “Conversations With People Who Hate Me” in order to understand those who, well, hate him.

And then, take action. What will that look like? Will start a campaign, change your own behaviors, advocate for others, raise awareness, include challenging scenarios in your teaching to promote those difficult conversations?

Here are some ideas from the TED Ed Blog:

4 Ways to Promote Empathy

How to teach Empathy through STEM

What Does It Mean to Be a Refugee?

Last week I happened to be on Twitter at the right time and saw a tweet about a unit planning game to support the SDG’s. I tried it out and it looks really useful. I can see students being supported to use this to plan inquiries with purpose.

How might we take what we have learned from 8 minutes of video this week and turn it into something for good, something that demonstrates that through empathy we can take action to bring about sustainable change? I plan on asking my kids and look forward to seeing how they might use our units on game design and sustainability to create change.


Imagination and Designs

We did a reshuffle of our kids for semester two Design today. We introduced our provocation and shared the basic premise of what would be happening in each of our classes. Then kids chose where to go.

As I sat with my new class of kids, I decided to use the rest of the lesson to just get to know them and for them to get to know me. I also wanted to get a head start on organizing our written communication/file sharing so I had everyone create and start adding to an introductory document. I shared three prompts:

  1. Things you should know about me.
  2. What I learned about Design from Semester 1
  3. My goals for Design in Semester 2

We sat and talked while we were working, sharing stories about who we are and what is important to us. I learned that Kai’s fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Gijzen (“She was so kind!” – ahh, what a legacy!) and that all my kids are fluent Mandarin speakers (I see opportunities to engage with our local community in our future!). Tonight I came home and in opening each student’s document and reading what they wrote, I came across this:

“Design was completely different than I thought it would be. I thought it was a class that was full of imagination and designs, but what I have learned was that Design class is full of essays and writings and I need to work on my writing to be better at Design”

Grade 9 Student


Because I thought it was a class full of imagination and designs, too! 

In Design, we are guided by the MYP Design cycle and the MYP Criterion. And what I realize I have done is approach this in a very, very traditional way that results in a bias toward those who are capable of writing well in English. When I think about last semester, the image that comes to mind is students hunched over computers, tapping away. Is that what Design is?

I had lunch with a colleague today in which I was sharing ways I wanted to simplify and scaffold the written portion of Design and this has only amplified that goal. Imagination and Designs – that’s what’s on the menu in my class this semester. What I have realized is that my practice hasn’t supported my ideals. I have wanted one thing but have shown I value something very different by the way I both structure the class and reward participation.

This feedback was a gift. Now to ensure I put the learning into practice. We are moving into our unit about our impact on the planet and what we can do about it and I keep thinking of this quote:

“If not now, when?”

And then in browsing Terri Eichholz’s Video Board on Pinterest, I saw this:

“The difference between what we are doing and what we are capable of doing
would solve most of the world’s problems.”
Mahatma Gandhi

How do you ENGAGE your students? How do you ease the written burden that we sometimes saddle our students with?


Parasite on the Planet

By @tersonya on Keynote with Apple Pencil

For semester two, our provocation in MYP Design, Grade 9, is “Parasite on the Planet”. We want to challenge our designers to use design to make less of an impact on the planet.

For my part, I am going to look at how we might repurpose, reuse, and generate new ideas for fashion related items. I am hopeful that there is enough scope to this provocation to make it engaging and meaningful for all learners.

For the most part, we will be driven by the concepts of sustainability, culture and fashion. Do we live in a disposable culture? How does one determine if something is fashionable? How can we develop a sustainable and fashionable culture?

Here is the overview I want to share with our kids:

Made on Keynote

There is a lot of other material out there with regard to this topic that inspired this choice of unit:

Thanks, Mitch, for sharing this one!
Can fashion be a source for social change?

What might you add? Have you done a unit like this before? Any ideas are welcome!


Game Over…

This semester I have been working on a Game Design unit with my Grade 8 Students. As with most units that you run for the first time, there were elements of success and elements of “hmmm….not sure I would do that again that way next time”. 

I tend to give a lot of freedom in my classes.  The expectations are clear, the support is there, but I let kids decide on what they want to do and how they want to do it. Which inevitably means some kids choose to be more flexible with their time than I would like – something they become acutely aware of as the semester draws to a close. 

So, what have I learned from this experience? 

It’s About the Process

I want to be more explicit in the keeping of a process journal to document learning. Many of my kids do this, but not all and not to the same level of organization. I came across this post which offers this advice that I am going to adopt: 

We will begin to keep a weekly process journal of what you’ve accomplished in and out of class for the week. This is a way for you to organize your work as well as your thoughts. It could/should include:

A summary of what you  accomplished in class.
A summary of what you worked on outside of class.
Any ideas or inspiration you have for your project.
Links to resources you found or notes you took.
Screenshots of what you have done.

This journal should be updated at least once a week. It should be at least a paragraph (±100 words?) but probably not more than a page.

Its All Connected

I am pretty open to kids doing this in a traditional written format, or if it is better for them, a reflective vlog might also be an option if they choose. I want it to be useful as a tool for keeping us (them?) focused and organized. 

Start With The End In Mind

I want to share all the Criterion rubrics with the students at the beginning of the unit. I think it will help with organization and with the big picture thinking. I also hope it might lead to a less linear approach to the unit if the kids (and I ) can see the whole Design Cycle in front of us and can choose to add to different parts of the overall assignment as we jump from research to testing to refining to rethinking – instead of feeling like there are a few weeks for inquiring and analysing (Criterion A) and then move on.

Here is the summary rubric I shared with my kids to help them pull their assignments together at the end of our unit – something I will share at the beginning the next time I teach this class.

Get Connected

I want my kids to have access to people and resources beyond our classroom, our school. To that end, I have found that there are loads of people and resources in the realm of game design that I can connect with in order to improve the unit.

Kathleen Mercury has an amazing blog packed with Resources to Teach Game Design. In particular I love her approach to beginning a game unit: Introducing games through play and 10 Minute Prototyping for Game Design. But honestly, that’s just the tip of a massive iceberg. She has so much stuff there it is crazy! And her Twitter feed is just as amazing. I need a few weeks to plough through it all but I know there is some great stuff in there!

I then happened upon this tweet in December that got me thinking about a collaborative student project:

I am looking forward to seeing how this idea develops in the near future!

I sought feedback from my kids along the way during this unit and I got a lot of helpful advice for how I could do things differently and what they liked about what we were doing. Ultimately, I want to make sure we are process oriented, connected, purposeful, and playful. I will keep you posted when semester two kicks off in a few weeks!


The Day You Begin

Today a box of books arrived at my school. I love books – and the book whisperer who sent them. They all looked amazing but the one that I read first was, The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated by Rafael López.

As I read the inside of the jacket, this stood out to me:

And they remind us that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our story, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

The Day You Begin – Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López

This is a great “new beginnings” book for those people starting a new semester or getting ready to start a new school year. And it’s also a reminder that while calendars or school years can mark the passage of time, there is nothing like the present moment to make the decision to begin something new or choose to see things in a new light.

This is the opening page of the book. It is framed to evoke a feeling of apprehension. My hope would be that kids read this as a positive statement of just how special and unique they are – and that everyone is. And because no one is quite like you, take the time to listen and learn from each other.

A lot of the book is framed in this way: emphasising the “different-ness” of one’s lunch, language, vacations, families. It ends with an affirming message of celebrating the differences in us all. I would just hope that this is the message that rings through.

I love Jacqueline Woodson’s books. Each Kindness and The Other Side are two favorites. I question sometimes whether these books are for kids or adults. I look at the way my daughter settles in with her “new best friend” be they boy or girl, older or younger, English speaking or not, and I wonder if she needs to listen to a book that points out our differences. Then I read the comments on blog posts and news sites and I wonder if it is not the adults who need reminding of the simple truth that “every new friend has something a little like you–and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.”

I would read this book to humans of all ages. It’s a message we can’t hear too often.