Last Wednesday, 5 February, NIST’s Secondary School was involved in an experiment. With recent events (pollution, the Coronavirus) providing the possibility of a school closure, the school made plans to prepare. In the Secondary School, that plan was to use an online platform, Zoom, to host learning activities. Zoom, for those not familiar, is a video conferencing application that allows large numbers of people, upwards of thousands, to interact simultaneously. Interaction can be as removed as just viewing to more engaging activities like sharing screens, files, and voice. Think of it as a Face Time, Skype or Google Hangouts session with large numbers of participants.
To be ready for a possible school closure, NIST Secondary teachers hosted the first two classes on Wednesday online. Students and faculty had practiced in school beforehand, but this Wednesday session was the first real test to see if it worked. From most accounts, the online sessions were a tremendous success with many suggesting they were even more focused and productive from home.
Saturday, February 1st, eighteen middle and high school teams will be at NIST competing in the Battle in Bangkok 2020 – Thailand VRC National Championship. The teams come from Thailand and Indonesia this year. Teams are vying for a variety of awards on the day, as well as the chance to qualify to go to the Worlds VEX Robotics Competition in Lousiville, Kentucky this April. Teams will compete in matches where teams ally with other teams to manipulate objects on the fields to score more points than the other team. Our students will compete in both driver skills and programming skills. They will also be judged on design, teamwork, and documentation of their process. The highest achievement at the tournament is the Excellence Award, which goes to the team with the highest overall performance in all of the above categories.
Awards aside, the awesome part of robotics is the growth that happens during the months that go into teams developing strategies, designing the pieces, building the robot, then testing to see if it works. This process happens over and over as the students iterate to improve the robot. Practicing real skills and teamwork like “engineers and product designers” provide our students with real-world experiences. Students grow accustomed to using tools and creating machines that were just in their imagination which fuels self-confidence. it’s truly rewarding to watch the perseverance of our young teams! It is commendable that students work for so long towards this goal while having fun. We love having robotics both as an Extracurricular Activity (ECA) at NIST and as part of the curriculum in some year levels, and we are looking to expand into further year levels next year.
Part of NIST’s vision is to provide individualised pathways to students as a way to personalise their educational experience, and to keep them engaged in the things that already inspire them. One way that Jenny Friedman, the Year 9 advisory team leader, has incorporated individualised learning in the Year 9 advisory program is by introducing an electives period every two weeks for Year 9 students. As a way to make this even more student-focused, the children had a say as to what electives were being offered to them, then teachers developed programs around the students’ passions and interests. Some of the units being offered include using Minecraft to make a scale model of the NIST campus, interactive fiction writing, cooking made easy, video game design and more. When asked what they think about electives, a student said they liked the format because it was more engaging, they liked the ability to choose things that interested them and they like that there was a large variety of options to choose from in a range of categories such as active, creative, etc. Programs like this help students find their passions or engage them in their passion during the normal school day, which keeps them engaged and excited about their learning.
Systems Thinking means that we look at things as a whole rather than a jumble of parts. It means we observe a system and understand the connections and interactions between the many elements.
“It’s when little things work to make a big thing.” – Sean
The children in the Early Years have been inquiring into how the decisions we make can have an impact on the systems around us. They researched how systems work through playful introductions to coding, invitations that encouraged exploration of cause and effect, and conversations that drew out the ‘parts that make up the whole’ in already known systems.
By recognizing and realizing systems around us, we are better able to see how everything is interconnected. Systems Thinking is a powerful way for children to understand why situations are the way they are. They can look at problems in new ways – leading to new solutions.
Since returning from winter break we have been unleashing student’s creativity in the upper elementary classrooms. We have been exploring the Everyone Can Create curriculum from Apple Education. This curriculum leverages the powerful tools that are available to our students on their iPads. The Everyone Can Create curriculum is a series of four books that focus on drawing, photography, video, and music. Each book is full of hands-on, engaging activities that allow the students to explore and experiment in a structured and scaffolded manner. Students are encouraged to “stretch their imaginations and make connections they might not otherwise make — and carry all these skills through everything they’ll do in school.” So far, the students have been very engaged and energized while learning about drawing tools. Students are exploring balance and symmetry, making lines, shapes, shading, color, and texture and how these can influence mood and tone when illustrations are added to a story. The students are super engaged in the activities, and we have been blown away at the quality and variety of student work. We are very excited to see how the students engage with these skills and concepts, and how this transfers to other areas of the curriculum.
The first week of September, all middle school students go off campus on action week trips. Then, during the last week of the calendar year, all middle school students at NIST participate in Action Week 2, which is an off-timetable week where students work on a week-long project. Each year level participates in different projects in each year level, making the week dynamic and engaging all throughout the NIST middle school experience.
Year 7 Innovation Week
In Year 7, all students choose an experience that they would like to explore and inquire into for the week. They come up with new innovations around their choice of machines, kindness, pollution, food and fairy tales. Students take action and create goals around these projects in groups of three to six. Collaboration is key to achieving their student-developed goals.
Year 8 “Who Are We?”
In Year 8, the week is all about investigating further into our guiding question, “Who are we?” and expanding this knowledge from our advisory classes and Year 8, to the broader NIST community. The students’ interview members of staff who work behind the scenes. These are people they may not interact with on a daily basis, but do contribute greatly to their time and experience at NIST. After the students get to know them, they decide on a way to share their story with the rest of the NIST community, creating a product for this staff member. Some choose to make documentaries or animations, while others create pieces of art, newspapers, podcasts, and we even had one group write and perform a song! All video work can be found at this YouTube playlist.
Year 9 “What’s Your Frog”
In year nine this year there was a new experience for the students where they determined their interests and passions, then develop a project around this. Some students decide to draw attention to inequality and poverty through slum photography projects, others are building care packs for children in detention centres, while some groups decided to create awareness around gender and sexuality equality plus many more wonderful ideas. This week students locked in their plan so they can be successful with their project by the end of the school year. They also took a field trip to different locations around the city to learn how people are working to help those in their small communities.
Students have had some amazing experiences this week with computer science at many different year levels. Every year at this time, Code.org promotes Computer Science Education Week around the world in order to raise awareness about computer science. Classes from the elementary school and the secondary school have participated in a number of activities. Our hope is that with some exposure that some students will understand that they can succeed in this valuable area. Our students are learning to code both online and offline and are developing the skills needed for the future of work in 2030, such as effective communication, creative and critical thinking, problem-solving and people skills.
Try your own Hour of Code activity. Better yet, create something as a family.
Do you remember trying this out last year?
This week, Year 2 celebrated Loy Krathong with some very exciting Krathongs that were designed and built by the Year 2 students. This project was a result of the Year 2 team working with Melissa Daniels of High Tech High to utilize a project tuning protocol to redesign the unit.
The Krathongs were built in the Makerspace and were the culmination of a unit exploring materials and the design process. The objective was to create a Krathong that adhered to specific design principles. The design principles used to build the Krathong were: it must be symmetrical, it must use almost all nature-made materials, it must include decorations, it must stay together, and it must float for a long time.
The students absolutely loved this unit, and they learned a lot about the design process, properties of materials, and the cultural significance of Loy Krathong. The students also loved learning and making in the Makerspace. Great job, Year 2 students!
Over the past summer break, NIST’s Pixar Lab (2nd floor of the Creative Arts Building – CAB) had a renovation to include a space for taking pictures. An initiative of Jarrod Rayner’s and the Art Department, this photo studio allows students to take high-quality pictures of their artwork to share with the wider community and, in the Diploma program, for their assessed DP Visual Arts portfolio. These resources allow students, and the wider community, to explore new possibilities using a professional-level environment and equipment.
As you can see in the photos above, the studio includes a 2.5 metre high, 1.5 metre deep curved white wall (infinity cove), display stands, studio lighting and a ring lights. Once the photo is taken, it can be edited or manipulated with the fully equipped iMacs in the same room. Recently the ring light was used to produce posters for the Movember campaign to promote men’s health. See a sample below of gentlemen and their Mo’s.
One of the best ways to learn is by getting hands-on experience and by learning from the experts, which is especially true in the world of music. The Year 10 Music class has recently learned about four different kinds of world music through a series of workshops led by their teachers and by guest presenters, including Khru Joe Watcharachotewisit and Mr. Josh Green. Khru Joe is a teaching assistant in Year 6 but is also an expert in Thai classical music.
In addition to leading the Music Academy, Mr. Josh has years of experience in teaching the percussion patterns from Latin American dance music. By learning through workshops, students were able to play the instruments from these styles of music while finding out about the patterns that are common to these styles. This project is a perfect example of leveraging the expertise in our community is another way we provide robust, inspiring, and innovative learning experiences for our students.