‘A beautiful question is an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something—and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.’ Warren Berger ~ A More Beautiful Question.
This generally starts with a ‘why?‘ question which identifies the need for change, followed by ‘what if?‘ which imagines new possibilities, and moving onto the ‘how?‘ which leads to action.
A couple of years ago we asked ourselves: Why do we spend the first few weeks ‘setting the tone’ in the classroom and then start the first unit of inquiry? What if the first unit of inquiry at every year level helped create classroom culture and set the tone for the learning to take place? How might we go about that?
A recent visit to ISHCMC provoked us to ask: Why do we need a separate central idea for each grade level? What if we tried one overarching central idea for the whole school? How might a whole school approach influence school culture?
And then: Why reinvent the wheel? What if we adapted the central idea we saw at ISHCMC and tweaked the lines of inquiry from our previous units? How might feedback from other educators support the development of this idea?
PYP Trans-disciplinary Theme: WHO WE ARE
An inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities, and cultures; rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human. (IB Primary Years Program)
Central Idea: Our choices define who we are as individuals and as a community.
Possible lines of Inquiry:
These are still to be refined with input from teachers, students and the world. (As our junior school learning spaces will be redesigned over the summer, all grades have a line of inquiry about how the new spaces will be used.)
- How our choices help us build a learning community (responsibility)
- Choices in how we express our learning (reflection)
- How we choose to use our environment to support our learning (function)
- How thinking about our choices helps us to grow as individuals (reflection)
- Choices that help us work together as an effective learning community (causation)
- How we choose to use our environment to support our learning (causation)
- How humans learn (function)
- Choices we make as learners, individually and collaboratively (reflection)
- How we choose to use our environment to support our learning (change)
- Choices that affect our learning community (causation)
- How diversity enriches a community (change)
- How we use our learning environment to support our learning community (connection)
- How communication affects relationships (connection)
- Choices in how we communicate – audience, purpose, context (causation)
- How effective groups function (reflection)
- Personal values (perspective)
- How our values influence the choices we make (connection)
- The choices we make as learners (reflection)
- Active citizenship
- Decision making strategies (reflection)
- Our choices as individuals – personal interests and passions (perspective)
- The impact of choices/decisions on other people, our community, the world (responsibility)
The central idea provides possibilities for authentic trans-disciplinary inquiry too. They might inquire into how our health and exercise choices affect us, how our choices affect others in games and sports, artistic and musical choices…
Teachers might inquire into how our choices define us human beings and as educators; the impact of our choices as educators on the social, emotional and academic learning of our students; ways to increase opportunities for student ownership and agency…
And a few more beautiful questions of my own:
What if this was a year-long unit of inquiry?
What if, instead of a central idea, we had an overarching big question?
What if, instead of lines of inquiry, the learners came up with their own why, what if and how questions?
What if everything we did was about real learning instead of ‘doing school’?