by Alex Thomas, Physical & Health Education Teacher/Outdoor Education Coordinator
It is easy for us to imagine a YIS student completely engrossed in a project in the classroom, fascinated and buoyed by the new skills they are developing and stimulated by the thinking that their project requires. This student has been provoked by content and good pedagogy and is now hooked into deep debate, critiquing their own, and other’s perspectives. They are now set - set to choose their learning path for the class project and dive deep into exploration and thoughtful inquiry.
Moving on through a balanced scope of topics at YIS is a great positive. This enables the student to find a new passion or challenge and I can imagine a student, who is now fully engaged in an activity such as pottery, wanting to stay there, go deeper, wanting to do more, think more, ask more, learn more and wanting to be able to continue their learning journey in pottery. They would love to try new pottery techniques and methods that they have discovered, and find more. They would love to compare what they know to other cultures and how communities approach pottery. And possibly explore the history of these cultures and how pottery has shaped a particular community and maybe examine what the consequences would be if the art of pottery disappeared from that community altogether. I imagine that student wanting to travel to that community and ask. I imagine that student wanting to bring their classmates with them, find experts, share discoveries, find new skills as well as answers and bring those back along with a developed understanding of the world and how it works.
It is with genuine excitement that we introduce the YIS Live Learn Lead Project that we are piloting with a small group of Grade 11 students this year. Now, the aforementioned student who discovered a love of pottery, and all of the learning that surrounds their passion, have the opportunity to form their own group of like-minded peers and independently plan and shape their own learning experience off campus. They could then travel to the pottery villages in the mountains, possibly Mashiko in Tochigi Prefecture for example, and spend five days without teachers, parents but with local experts such as potter Euain Craig and the local community and immerse themselves in that new, unfamiliar and exciting learning space. These 5 days, calendared in March, is called Project Week and for this year, students can choose to travel in Honshu, Japan.
On November 20, we rolled out the Live Learn Lead project to the Grade 11 community and the student applications that have been turned in to be approved are rich in learning, high-level thinking and amazing ideas. One application included studying anime and globalization in Kyoto; another discussed Japanese performing and visual arts and how the students can act meaningfully to prevent the disappearance of these arts from Japanese culture; another group is pitching an idea to delve deeper into the culture of rural Japan in Kanto and Tokai by planning a bike tour expedition, being considerate of carbon miles. Architecture and how Japanese buildings have been influenced by neighboring cultures such as Chinese and Korean is another proposed project.
In reading through these applications and in listening to the excited students discuss their ideas, what really shone was the student’s authentic and insightful manner in which they described a rounded learning experience. It wasn’t just about biking or pottery or performing on stage. The students spoke well of the need to work together and use each other’s strengths, plan their time, manage their budget and schedules as well as discover themselves along the way. And so, as often happens when students share their learning at YIS, it was clear that pottery, architecture and anime are not just passions and areas of discovery, but rather vehicles that allow students to gain a much broader global perspective. And in this way, they fulfill their mission to live, learn, lead.