Innovation @ NIST

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

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”.

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.  

Loy Krathong Design Unit

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!