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.