Innovation @ NIST

| Bangkok, Thailand Curated by NIST's Learning Innovation Coaches

Innovation Spotlight: Non-Screen Activities at Home

When we are restricted with the places we can go and things we can do, it is often difficult to avoid the lure of computers, iPads, phones, and televisions. So much of what we do (learning, working, socializing) is connected to the online world and it can be a challenge to break away. 


Thankfully, many are considering this a challenge and a number of innovative solutions are being shared like those in the picture below. It is interesting to see some of the simple ideas that could be so engaging: word games, diary entries, photo challenges, practicing art and demonstrating gratitude, are all things we can do to help us cope and connect with others.

Even though the situation we find ourselves in is less than optimal, or outright stressful, we also have the opportunity to connect with each other through non-screen activities such as these. Hopefully, this list will inspire people to try at least one off-screen activity a day. If you have any others to share, please let us know by adding it to this Padlet: NIST’s Community Non-Screen Activities (Note: we are fully aware of the irony 😊)


Year 7 OFFline Learning

During the first week of March most of the Secondary school students practiced learning from home on Tuesday and Thursday in preparation for a campus closure. As one might expect, much of that time was spent in front of a screen doing everything from receiving instructions, completing activities, and turning in assignments.


We’ve learned a great deal from these practice home learning sessions. Being at home to learn online is novel and fun…for a while, but it can get tiring. Overall, the students on quarantine are managing well, yet there is still need for more connection with the class. This is where Advisory classes can play a key role. In Year 7, students were given instruction on tasks that they could do OFFline for an hour or so. In 7D, students showed evidence of their activities on a Padlet (online bulletin board – 7D – My OFF screen activity). 

As you can see, many did some cooking and baking, some walked their dogs, others drew, one student reorganized their room, and another made a shirt! It was fantastic to see where the students could be creative and innovative. Given more time like this, there is no doubt that the students would broaden their activities even further.


Although there is no substitute for learning at school, if we have to learn at home we are prepared to do so on and off-screen.

Project Based Learning at NIST in Elementary

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘project’? Project-based learning is an approach to learning that has many interpretations. For the Elementary school at NIST, our definition has been shaped by a three-year partnership with Melissa Daniels from High Tech High (an innovative school well known for its feature in the documentary Most Likely to Succeed. Here is the definition that has helped teachers at NIST through their work with Melissa Daniels:

From February 10-13th, Year level teams from 2 through 6 all met with Melissa to think about developing a Unit of Inquiry through a project-based learning approach. Teams volunteered to meet with her and, through the use of discussion and protocols, ideated or refined project ideas for students. Melissa led a parent workshop and all faculty attended a Project-Based Learning exhibition in which some students were present to share their previous project experiences. 


How does project-based learning, NIST and the PYP all connect? 

Watch this video to find out about the intersections we have found so far. 

Is PBL now a part of the NIST curriculum? 

High Tech High has a different curriculum from ours and no approach fits perfectly for different contexts. Teachers are not expected to plan or teach in this way, but there is great positivity from the students and teaching teams who have done so already. Some things that are positive challenges for us are: craftsmanship emphasis in what we create, exhibiting and sharing learning in all year levels with a broader audience. All projects at NIST have been and will continue to be grounded in our PYP units of inquiry and taught in a conceptual way.


Here listed are the Units of Inquiry or learning experiences that had project-based learning integration last school year (2018/2019):

Year 2  Year 3  Year 5 
How the World Works:

Sustainable Krathongs

Related concepts: design, creation, materials, properties

How the World Works:

Songkran Arcade

Related concepts: machine, forces, motion, work 

Reading, Writing, Media and Maths Week
How We Express Ourselves:

Musical Instruments

Related concepts: sound, expression, the arts

Sharing the Planet

Changemaker Profiles

sustainability, action, solution

Here are the possible Units of Inquiry or learning experiences that could have a project-based learning integration for the second semester of this school year:

Year 2  Year 3 Year 4  Year 5  Year 6 
How the World Works:

Sustainable Krathongs

Related concepts: design, creation, materials, properties

How the World Works:

Songkran Arcade

Related concepts: process, discovery, problem-solving, forces 

How the World Works:


Related concepts: energy, transformation, technology, experimentation

Sharing the Planet

‘This I Believe’ Podcasts

Related concepts: consumption, impact, solution, choice

How the World Works


Related concepts: forces, motion, scientific thinking, design

How will I know this is happening and how can I, as a parent, be involved?

Through SeeSaw, you will be shared a Unit of Inquiry update newsletter. In the newsletter, there will be information about the project for the unit (if there is one). If you find any ways in which you can support this learning, please reach out to your homeroom teacher. Also, use the information from the newsletter to spark discussion about the learning with your child.

If you would like any more information please contact Bry (

March Media Mentor Month is Back!

In our ongoing effort to support healthy media use, this month we are celebrating Media Mentor Month! Media Mentor Month is an idea developed by educator Keri-Lee Beasley, a learning and technology coach at Western Academy of Beijing. The Media Mentor Month initiative helps bring focus to the digital and media literacy circumstances facing families today. It’s a great way to engage the whole family in proactive and productive conversations around media use in your home.

English Version Here
Korean Version Here
Chinese Version Here

From Keri-Lee’s blog:

What is it?
Media Mentor Month is an initiative to help parents develop a positive relationship with their children around digital technologies. Just as we want to be mentors for our children in reading or having a healthy lifestyle, we also want to mentor them in their digital world too (see more details about being a Media Mentor here). The trouble is, sometimes we don’t know exactly how to go about that. Media Mentor Month provides parents with some ideas and strategies to help foster and develop that relationship.

Who is it for?
Anyone, really, but probably best suited to parents who are looking for direction to connect with their children around technology. Especially the ones who feel they only ever battle with their kids about being on screens too much (see more about that here).

When is it happening?
Ideally, March, so we’re all on the same page. Realistically? Any time that fits into your family schedule.

What do I need to do?
You can participate as much or as little as you like. Personally, I would love to see you share some photos of your family engaging in the challenges. Make sure to add the hashtag #MediaMentorMonth so we can follow your progress

You can find this on Keri-Lee’s blog “Tip of the Iceberg”.

Zooming into Online Learning

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.

Why Robotics?

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.

Student Voice and Choice in Year 9 Advisory

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 in the Early Years

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.  

Middle School Action Week 2

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.