Creative Minds – A unit built on global connections and student agency

At the end of last year, when I choose to revamp my Creative Minds G6 English-Humanities unit (read more about it here), I was excited at the prospect of making the unit more grounded and relatable to my students. At the same time, I wanted my students to choose their own paths of inquiry according to what was meaningful and made sense to them. So much to look forward to!

Before starting the unit, there were a couple of hurdles I needed to clear in order for my plans to work. First, it was important to get my teaching team on board with the changes I was proposing for the unit. I teach G6 English-Humanities in a team with three other teachers and all decisions regarding unit planning are made by the team. When we came back from the winter holiday I had time to present the unit plan and to explain the rationale for the changes I was suggesting. Not surprisingly at all, my team had open ears and an open mind and were very receptive to my proposal. With new eyes on the unit plan, we had a constructive session where we were able to refine the context of the unit. As I mentioned before, one of my goals for this unit was to frame the unit in a way that students could see a real-world, current perspective on the role of inventions and innovations and the creative process that they entail. Initially, the students were going to inquire into a variety of inventions and innovations that have had a significant impact on the world. Through the discussion with my team, we concluded that a more focused way to look at this was to do it through the lens of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. As a result, the following was added to the unit plan:

Understandings:

  • Innovation plays an essential role in the chances to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Essential Questions:

  • What is the purpose of the Sustainable Development Goals?
  • How can innovation support each of the Sustainable Development Goals?

The other concern I had before starting the unit was to make sure that we could secure at least one of our connections with outside experts that could offer the students insights into actual innovations, and opportunities to get answers to their questions from people directly involved in the field. Sadly, the virtual field trip to learn about the current challenges of communities without sanitation and possible solutions didn’t work out due to our time zone differences. We were planning to do this virtual field trip during the second week of the unit, in the hopes that the students would get this first-hand experience with a concrete problem and gain some inspiration to move forward with the unit. Despite that setback, our other connection went through and we were able to organize a Skype call with Rajeev Massand, a software engineer who works for Microsoft. Luckily, we also managed to establish a connection with an MYP Year 3 Humanities class from another international school in China who are going to give feedback to my students on their plans for their final project for the unit which will happen via Flipgrid.

Finally, my biggest hope for this unit is for my students to embrace the different opportunities to self-direct their own learning. This is why we worked so hard to chose our provocations for the unit, so the students are inspired and motivated by knowing how meaningful small changes can be in the path of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

 

Featured image by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

6 thoughts on “Creative Minds – A unit built on global connections and student agency

  1. Hi Lina, I love your project as it is so meaningful and the connections are authentic for your students. Time difference is quite a challenge for us as well but I think it is part of the learning and you have found a really great way to work around it. Look forward to hearing how your students take charge of their own learning. All the best.

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    1. Hi Agisa. Yes, I’ve found that many of the guest speakers available through Microsoft for Education are based in the US, which makes it difficult for us in Asia to find suitable times for connections. We have actually had the Skype call with Rajeev Massand and he was absolutely amazing! First, he was so generous with his time (he spoke with us for over 40 minutes). He was also so mindful of the ages of my students and presented all the information in such a relatable way, including some quite technical information. My students were super pumped after that call and he definitely lit a spark in them. It’s amazing that we now have these opportunities available to us.

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  2. I really like your unit revamp! Redefining the context of the unit means increasing the work of the whole team so I am glad that they were all on board with student learning as the focus. That says a lot for the respect/faith that your team has in each other as educators. I to have had hangups with time zones when looking to collaborate with classes around the world. I’m so glad you were able to find a way to get it done despite the difficulties. I look forward to seeing how this all plays out.

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    1. I am very lucky to have a very supportive teaching team. Amazing things can happen when you are all there to listen and to challenge in a constructive way. Although we have incorporated new understandings to the unit, they really fit in and I am having trouble thinking how was it that we used to teach this unit without them!

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    1. Hi Ange. I am now following Jen Williams. Thanks for the tip! I’ve looked at some of the work that she has been doing and it’s impressing. More and more I find that we need to bring the SDGs to the forefront of all what we do at schools.

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