We are the ones who can make it happen
We are the ones who can make it right
It’s up to us
It’s not too late to try
Every day is Earth Day*
There is something especially heartbreaking about youth setting out to fix problems they had nothing to do with creating.
For the past several weeks, the Mack-Boulder fifth graders have been working on the culminating inquiry-based learning project of the IB Primary Years Program: Exhibition. The theme for exhibition this year was How We Share the Planet. The students— after the teachers supported them in strengthening their background knowledge around topics such as population, consumption, food, energy, climate, and conservation— came up with the central idea: Individuals and communities make choices that impact the environment and living organisms in both positive and negative ways. In fact, the students were involved in all phases of planning the unit.
Once the students decided on the specific problems they wanted to explore, they formed into groups—with classmates who had similar topics—to work with faculty mentors. The exhibition topics ranged from the dramatic rising of sea levels to the importance of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, from overpopulation to ocean pollution. The groups met with their mentors twice a week for five weeks; the mentors helped them refine their research, brainstorm ideas, and meet deadlines.
A key part of the research process was using a variety of sources—including interviewing experts—to answer the fifth graders’ questions and to gather additional information. Outreach Coordinator Catherine Barnes assisted the students in connecting with experts (see the complete list below), and some students were lucky enough to have an “in house” expert at their disposal: climate and environmental scientist Synte Peacock, Ph.D., who also happens to be a parent to a Mack fifth grader and third grader.
The fifth graders, having compiled the bulk of their research, then visited the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to study how museums share information in compelling and interactive ways. In addition to observing throughout the museum and noting techniques, the students met with Jodi Schoemer, Director of Exhibits, to discuss how museums design their exhibits.
In Visual Arts, Design, and Performing Arts, the students worked on developing and creating aspects of their exhibits, and they learned and rehearsed pieces they would perform during Exhibition.
Finally, this week, strategically chosen for its proximity to Earth Day (April 22nd), the 5th grade presented Exhibition 2017! The many weeks of questioning, meeting with mentors, interviewing experts, researching, and working on how best to convey/share their learning resulted in incredibly informative, effective, and interactive exhibits. The long hours of rehearsing made for a moving performance.
Yes, there is something especially heartbreaking about youth setting out to fix problems they had nothing to do with creating. But, after witnessing these young Mack-Boulder students’ passion and resolve, we also feel hope.
*song lyrics written by Teresa Jennings, performed by the fifth graders at Exhibition
The Mack-Boulder 5th grade would like to give a special “thank you” to the experts who gave their time and expertise to answer our questions.
Krista E. Stegemann
Phil Graham Taylor