As fifth graders at Brown International Academy get ready to graduate from elementary school and enter the next phase of their education, they also prepare to present their final assignment: Exhibition. Fifth Grade Exhibition is a capstone experience that is unique to the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. The culmination of several years’ of study under the IB curriculum, the Exhibition provides students the opportunity to display what they have learned in the school year’s final unit of inquiry, titled “Heal the World.”
“Heal the World” falls within the IB transdisciplinary theme of Sharing the Planet, which explores humans’ rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources and gain access to equal opportunities. For the Exhibition, 5th graders work through this guiding theme to develop different ways of illustrating inquiry and finding answers to a real-life problem.
The real-life problem, or central idea, was that poverty impedes the fulfillment of human potential. Students explored different aspects of poverty through specific lines of inquiry – namely, access to education for all people, opportunities for health services, access to food and nutrition, and availability of clean water and sanitation.
“By working in individual groups that form part of a larger project, students begin to realize that all of these seemingly separate topics are related,” said Amy Highsmith, Brown’s former IB coordinator. “If people have no access to clean water, they develop significant health problems. Many children in impoverished countries spend every day hauling water for long distances, which hinders them from receiving an education. Our students also began to explore the topic of child labor. Many families in this world live on less than one dollar a day, and children must work to survive. Poverty is a vicious cycle.”
The final Exhibition highlights the students’ inquiry through three components: arts, information communication technology and a written format.
Arts. Each student group created an arts piece that explored one or more of these related lines of inquiry. A group’s final product may be a poem, a dance, a dramatic performance, or a visual arts piece that, for instance, depicts an image of poverty. Students kept artist journals to record their experience and to supplement their work during Exhibition.
Barth Quenzer, Brown’s visual arts teacher, says that a larger service-learning project may be woven into the arts component as a complement to the Exhibition. “Using the arts to empower and beautify the community is one example of how the cycle of poverty can be broken. The collaborative 5th grade mosaic A Culture of Color , inspired by the name Brown, is comprised of color tiles that will be mounted inside the school. Created by the students, these tiles illustrate the proactive and positive change happening at Brown,” he says.
Information communication technology: Students incorporated into their exhibits an information communication technology piece, such as a slide presentation, podcast, or computer graphic display, to communicate their ideas.
Written format: Each exhibit was accompanied by a written component consisting of a research paper, poster presentation, or some other written communication that expresses students’ ideas in written language.
Working with teachers as mentors, students’ ultimate goal with Exhibition is to develop an action plan to address the problem expressed by the central idea, and to think about how they can work together toward solving the problem.