School can be like a conference…

Guest post by Donna Morley, a PYP coordinator at an IB school in Hong Kong. It’s exciting to be able to share and build on each others’ ideas, even when we don’t live in the same country. I’m hoping to organise something similar at my school. Thanks, Donna!

I recently read Edna’s post ‘Why isn’t school like a conference?’ We were looking for an interesting way to launch our year 6 Sharing the Planet unit  for their PYP exhibition so I thought I would suggest having a ‘Sharing the Planet conference’! The year 6 teachers liked the idea and really ran with it and last week we had our first ever conference for students. Sharing the planet

The day started with all children in the hall for a Keynote address from Alex Steffen, an expert on sustainability, to give the children an overview of the key issues associated with ‘Sharing the Planet’, We didn’t actually fly him here from Canada, we showed his excellent TED talk.

Next, each student chose to attend three workshops to give them a broader understanding of the big idea ‘Our future depends on ethical and sustainable use of resources‘. They chose from: Sustainability of Chinese Language, Technology and the Big Idea, A Sustainable Home in Hong Kong, The Big Idea through Art, The Big Idea through Science, Fact and Bias within the Big Idea, Connections to Previous Learning and What is Action? It was great to have workshops presented by members of staff from throughout the school, not just year 6. We also had students from year 3 and 5 sharing their learning from their ‘Sharing the Planet’ units – and they did so with amazing confidence and enthusiasm!

In the afternoon there were a range of stations set up for children to record their learning or take it further. We had a tech zone  where students watched selected videos and used the visible thinking strategy: ‘Connect – Extend – Challenge’ to reflect on their learning. There was also a reflection zone for children to record their thoughts on the day using Voicethread, blogs and video. They contributed to a huge graffiti wall, collected images to represent the big idea in the art zone and there were also health, science and social studies zones.

It was great to watch how the students behaved at the workshops, taking careful notes and posing challenging questions to the presenters. They really enjoyed this way of working and the teachers are already discussing how we might do the next one! Hopefully we will be able to persuade some of our parent community to come in as speakers or workshop presenters. It was an excellent learning experience which helped the children to tune in to the big ideas for this unit and allowed them to choose their interests and preferred ways of learning.

The year 6 team did a fantastic job of putting it all together and it was great to see teachers from across the school working together to make it happen. The whole event really showed us living by our all of our learning principles – another thing inspired by Edna’s posts!

  • Learning collaboratively and supporting each other.
  • Recognising that everyone is a learner and that learning is continuous.
  • Creating a safe and secure environment where innovation is encouraged and mistakes are viewed as a learning opportunity.
  • Having a balanced approach to life and learning taking into consideration the social, physical and emotional well being of our community.
  • Reflecting on our experiences and taking responsibility for our learning.
  • Being internationally minded
  • Communicating effectively in a variety of ways and in more than one language.
  • Personalising learning
  • Learning through guided inquiry
  • Sharing responsibility for ourselves and others and believing that our actions can make a difference

What the children had to say about the conference:
“I enjoyed it because it made me think about connections and links to the central idea.”

“I would like to learn this way again because we can also learn to use our time management skills while doing the different stations.”

“I really enjoyed the conference because it let me view the Big Idea through lots of different lenses and perspectives, like from a scientist’s lens, an artist’s lens, etc.”


6 thoughts on “School can be like a conference…

  1. What a fantastic idea and so many possibilities to expand and evolve – I shall certainly be passing this idea onto staff at our school for a Year 7 project we are involved in.
    Thank you Donna and Edna


  2. What a hands on awesome conference! You have given me something to work towards in my still stand and deliver biannual conference events which we hold for language students at a Mexican university. First, I’ll get to work on updating our IP service (outdated, slow and often not-functional). Thanks for sharing. Ellen


  3. I like how all the grades were involved. It really shows the idea that everybody shares the planet and has a voice, even at school! You “walked the talk” !


  4. After reading this post and then the one by the teacher who used this idea in a middle school, I was so excited to try it myself. Since it was late in the year, we were already swamped with projects. However, we just had our first school as a conference day on Wednesday for our 5th graders. I wrote about it here: It was a great day. Thanks for your inspirational idea.


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