BIG Ideas Week 2

Wonderful experiential learning at St. John’s International School.

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Born To Learn

How humans learn. Take note!



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Water Group Presentation

One of the groups from Big Ideas Week created this. Skip ahead when you get to the guy talking about Hydro Electricity (unless you’re enjoying it of course)

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Big Ideas Week

Big Ideas Week

 WATER                  St. John’s International School                             January 2012

Big Ideas Week is our innovative program for group-based experiential learning that allows students the space and time to recognize and stretch their innate capabilities and reach their own conclusions about their own performance.  It brings together the 7 competences which underpin our curriculum in middle school; Thinker, Creator, Explorer, Communicator, Collaborator, Contributor and Self assessor.

The week kicked off with a collaboration between the St. John’s and the organizations Green Light for Girls and Levis Strauss as well as visits to the local fire station, sewerage plant and swimming pool.

Students then worked in groups for the week with teachers helping and guiding their inquiry and discovery.

Throughout the week students had access to specially arranged workshops and outside experts which were all linked to the theme water.

Some highlights of the week:

  • Levi Strauss presenting on their Water-Less jeans and Green light for Girls running water-related experiments in school
  • Students skyping with Bengali aid workers about water purification projects in rural villages in Bangladesh
  • Conversations and collaborations with Pacific Institute in Hawaii
  • Students accessing advice and support from a network of external experts from across the world including the EU and Cambridge University
  • Students learning about and setting up basic financial accounting systems for fundraising for clean water projects
  • Students negotiating with school administration for access to sponsorship, permissions to adapt school property
  • Farm visit
  • Visit to local restaurants to investigate water
  • Amazing experiments in the Science labs
  • Students making hydro electricity

Some insights from the student evaluation give a taste of the be

“Big Ideas helped me to understand how things work in real life”

“Working as a group motivated me”

“They start listening to me by me listening to them”

“I really didn’t know I was that good in making a website”

“I can really focus when I need to”

“I learnt that if I want I can have fun by working”

“I let things go too easily”

How the students felt THEY could have improved their team’s  performance

“We should have argued less on the general topic – we had too many on the final project

“People should close their netbook when in group discussion and no shouting

“I would be more strict”

“Find a way to make it more interesting for the team”

“We should have thought of everything more early”

“I would pay more attention”

“I would work more instead of planning so much.”

“I would work more instead of planning so much.”

We are all proud (students and staff) to be part of such an exciting and innovative project.

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Big Ideas Week 2

Link to the second exciting week project at our school.

More info to follow! 

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A message we try to get across to our students at school is that we need to give. With Christmas preparations around the corner for many, attention often turns towards gifts. Giving and receiving. Kids tend to focus on the receiving part and it is part of our job as parents and educators to foster the sense or feeling of giving. Giving for giving’s sake. Giving to make someone else happy.

This is John Lewis’s latest Christmas commercial.  Sums up this message perfectly and has become part of our Middle School assembly tomorrow.


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Feel Bad Education

I have ordered the Book. Alfie Khon talks a lot of sense.

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TedxKids at St.John’s International School

Here’s a new montage of the TedxKids event we held at our school in June. Will be working with TedxBrussels on the next one for June 2012!

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The Language of the Internet

Google celebrated its 13th birthday this year. That means that all of our children at St. John’s below 7th grade were born in the Google age and our 12th graders were only four or five when Google was ‘born’ and cannot remember life without Google.

The World Wide Web has been with us for a miniscule amount of time in relation to the development of the human race. The industrial revolution lasted for approximately one hundred years and had an amazing impact on the socioeconomic and cultural conditions of the time. Today the internet revolution or knowledge revolution has lasted at most 15 years and is having an equally staggering impact economically and culturally as the industrial revolution did.

Such a fast cultural shift brings issues for us as parents and educators as we try to understand our ‘Google Generation’ kids.

A parent worrying about the impact of cultural changes on their children is not new. Our parents and their parents before struggled with understanding and accepting cultural shifts which were expressed by us as children.

MTV celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. Music videos brought a new expression into our living rooms back in the 1980s. MTV has reflected through music videos, 30 years of cultural change and the music video has become a powerful genre which includes common exploitation of women and a surge of language which is often violent.

It took computer games another 15 years after the introduction of MTV to start to incorporate similar worryingly violent content and raise concern about Kids aggression and addiction.

It needs to be noted thought that many music videos and computer games contain a wealth of excitement and non-violent content too.

A concern today is that kids seem to be becoming desensitized to some of the language and influences which surround them. It is common place for teenagers when communicating through text or social networks to use language and innuendos which are explicit and sometimes shocking to parents. Language all too common in their video and gaming lives which is often racist, misogynistic and sexual in content.

How worried should we be as parents about this? Is this just part of the cultural shift of our time? Are we just becoming our worried parents and grandparents?

I think there is a crucial element which is different this time with our kids. The use of expletives is whether we like it or not, becoming more common and children are able to contextualize, like adults, by not swearing in front of say their parents or teachers. But the way they often speak to each other, particularly online often reflects what they see and hear and they often don’t really understand the significance or potential to hurt each other when using this language.

What can we do about this as a parent?

The message we at school as well as countless internet awareness agencies give is be involved. Talking to our children about what they are saying online is vital. I would encourage parents to establish rules or expectations at home when it comes to social networking. Facebook, Skype, Google +, texting- all allow immediate conversations with sometimes multiple numbers of students at once.  I believe that conversations kids have with their friends at home on social networking sites need not be private especially up to the end of Middle School age. Having secrets at Elementary or Middle school age can lead to misunderstandings and having rules in place that allow for a parent to look over the shoulder of a child can be helpful.  Discussing what they are doing and saying online leads to open understanding and an open, supportive and caring environment.

A feeling of ‘no secrets’ at home as a general policy will inevitably lead your children chatting to their friends in a respectful way. Remember using the phone to call your friends when you were young? Our parents heard at least our half of the conversation!

I would urge parents to encourage visible online time at home; surfing and chatting in a place where you can be there to talk, question and encourage.

As always the message here is not to fear and resist this cultural shift, but rather to embrace the technology and keep talking and understanding what your ‘Google generation’ children are experiencing.

They seek guidance and support from parents and educators to help them continue to explore and communicate in a caring and respectful way.

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Big Ideas Week 2011

3rd– 7th October 2011 Middle School

In line with our new curriculum framework, students need to be given   opportunities to find, explore and present real world issues. The Big ideas Week is integral to the new curriculum framework in that it allows a deep exploration of the 7 competencies and supports cross curricular connections, higher level innovative thinking and creativity. An important element is the contributor aspect to the week which supports the understanding of cultural diversity and the awareness and impact of the issues on the world around us.

The Week will:

  • Model a real world investigation/issue/problem
  • Actively apply the 7 competencies
  • View world issues from multiple perspectives
  • Work with the multiple intelligence theory, to show that there are more than quantifiable logical/mathematical and linguistic intelligences
  • Research and explore, delve into topic– deep learning rather than surface learning
  • Develop understanding of complexity and connectedness of world issues
  • Present and celebrate their findings
  • Value each individual’s strengths, talents and contribution
  • Be engaging, exciting and stimulating

Grade 8 students will be away on their trip. 6th and 7th grade students will stay with their advisories for the week. The schedule will be collapsed, so that the advisor and the group can plan their projects together and they will have one room as a base. All students will be given a special talk from Sara Franks and Margaret Richardson about Information Literacy at the beginning of the week and we are very lucky to have Nick Payne a visual learning expert to advise and help throughout the week

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