Walnut Street 5th graders take on Exhibition!!

If you come to Mrs. Wilber’s fifth grade classroom at Walnut Street School you may wonder what’s going on.  Students are often clustered in small groups around the room, talking, laughing, and every once in a while it appears working.  Five and six students at a time may be seen getting up in the middle of a lesson to leave with another grown up.  While in the computer lab, chaos seems to ensue with kids on computers, groups of kids clustered around computers, kids on the floor with stacks of books, and many moving between these three areas.  To the outsider, this may appear to be a teacher’s worst nightmare, the students have completely taken control and Mrs. Wilber is helpless in their wake.

You are right on one count, the students have taken over!  They have taken complete ownership of all aspects of their PYP capstone project, the Exhibition.  But rest assured Mrs. Wilber has worked very hard over the course of this year to make sure students are ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities this culminating project presents.  In fact, rather than feel helpless she is able to feel pride and respect in taking a step back to allow her fifth graders to plan, research, analyze, evaluate, create, communicate, problem solve and engage with one another and the community.

The PYP Exhibition is a crowning project of the IB elementary experience.  Students in their last year of elementary undertake the incredible task of writing the curriculum framework they are intending to research, engaging in the research both independently and in groups, taking action on their findings, and presenting their work to the public.  Students are supported along the way by their teachers and mentors from the community.  In fact, those students you heard about earlier that randomly got up and left during a lesson are actually going to have their weekly meeting with their Exhibition mentor.  This dedicated individual helps deepen student thinking by asking powerful guiding questions, helps keep groups focused and on track, and even helps students plan and carry out community action.

Walnut Street School fifth graders this year created their curriculum framework within the Where We Are in Place and Time approach to learning.  Students crafted a central idea, People change civilization through their actions, and are inquiring into this conceptual understanding through three class generated lines of inquiry, patterns in population, how people change the natural environment, and ways a person’s community is influenced.  Fifth graders are a part of one of six small groups that are each exploring and researching the central idea and lines of inquiry through a different lens.  This flexibility in how students choose to approach their learning is foundational to their feelings of ownership and appreciation of their learning.

All of the time spent researching and preparing will culminate in Walnut Street School’s Exhibition presentation Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at Central Library from 5:00 to 7:00pm.  Family, friends, and the community are invited to help celebrate the amazing IB journey our students have been on throughout the last six weeks, the last 8 months, and throughout their entire elementary experience!

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