Confronting Real World Issues in the SCIS Classroom

By Liz Gale, Lower School Principal at Shanghai Community International School - Pudong Campus

G4 Learning Celebrations, SCIS students delve into transdisciplinary theme of sharing the planet At Shanghai Community International School, we recognize that students today are modern learners. They want to be challenged, inspired and motivated in a way that capitalizes on their unique experiences and technological skill set. They want to be in an environment that encourages collaboration and multiple forms of communication. They want to be provided with opportunities to pursue their passions and interests without worrying about the right answer or someone passing judgement on their work.

Decades of research has shown, that regardless of age, student learning is done best when it is situated in an authentic and real-world context. A context that encourages students utilize their skills in problem-solving, creativity, analytical thinking, collaboration and communication to actively engage with real-world issues.

Our teachers are consistently working to provide learning experiences for students that are connected to current local and global issues. Recently, Grade 4 students delved into the transdisciplinary theme of Sharing the Planet and inquired into various ecosystems and the impact humans have had on the Earth’s many natural environments, including our local Shanghai surroundings. At the onset of the unit, in an effort to peak their interest and curiosity, students were shown a variety of photographs of ecosystems around the world. The pictures depicted ecosystems that were thriving, as well as those that have been virtually destroyed by mankind. Certain images were from student’s home countries or places they have visited. Students were asked to record directly onto the photograph what they saw, thought and wondered. After discussing each of the photographs and the students’ observations and questions, each child was asked to select a picture representing an ecosystem they would be passionate about understanding and improving.

Once all students had made their selection, they worked together in groups to gather research from online sources and library materials. Following days of organizing, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating their research findings, students learned that ecosystems around the world are grossly imbalanced and this is having a disastrous impact on the organisms and living things within those environments.

As a way to take action and educate the greater community, students built 3D dioramas depicting both a balanced and imbalanced ecosystem. Their creative and unique displays were showcased in the front entry way of the school for parents and other students to interact with. Included in their exhibit was information on the components of their selected ecosystem, how the living things within the ecosystem are interdependent and the consequences the world faces as a result of the imbalance. Additionally, students developed a real-world action plan that would assist with reestablishing balance to the ecosystem. They developed a passion for a real-world issue and an intense desire to be part of the solution to this problem generated by mankind.

Therefore, it is imperative that as educators and parents we need to make a conscious and continued effort to engage students in meaningful, real-world issues and allow them an opportunity to apply the skills of problem-solving, creativity, thinking, collaboration, and communication in authentic and significant ways.

Original Link: Confronting Real World Issues in the SCIS Classroom (Source: Shanghai Daily | March 28, 2017, Tuesday)