"At Sias IS, we believe we know what skills are most developmentally appropriate to inspire students to love learning and be prepared for their futures."
Sias IS offers music, personal social and physical education (referred to as PSPE), visual arts (Art/Space), and World of Science (an enrichment program) as Specialist Subjects. Specialist teachers work together and with homeroom teachers to teach subject-specific skills in the context of the main Transdisciplinary units.As Ms. Battacharyya mentioned, students learn best when learning is authentic and enjoyable. Specialists teach subject-specific skills by connecting activities to the transdisciplinary theme and drawing from students’ lived experiences in Henan.
Much of this learning is project-based, where students break down large projects into smaller steps. Specialists use these steps to teach concrete skills like visual design in Art/Space, motion techniques and abilities in PSPE that integrates with physical, emotional, cognitive-spiritual and social wellbeing, and instrumental technique in music. World of Science activities enrich an applied understanding of concepts taught in Homeroom classes while using large groupwork projects to build critically important intangible skills like creativity, collaboration and problem solving. Students relate these skills to a real context and bring home tangible evidence of learning to share with family and friends.
Transdisciplinary integration of Homeroom and Specialists’s instruction is demonstrated by the “Rain Project”, an idea Mr. Kirsch suggested to the Grade 1 team in early stages of Unit of Inquiry collaboration. This project shows how Specialty Subjects can be woven into the UoI to reinforce and enrich Homeroom Learning Objectives. During homeroom inquiry time, Students prepared a reader’s theatre that enhanced performing for an audience. Students also explored the concept of patterns and form. In Science, students learned about monsoonal climates and African savanna animals. In PSPE students experienced and practiced diverse movements that resemble African savannah animals. In music, students looked at the origins of the rain stick, the drum, and the shaker. They even made their own instruments to use in their culminating performance! Students analyzed their script to design a sound-scheme, thus learning about the elements of sound and music in a performance setting.
As students learn to be independent learners and inquirers, they are also learning the fundamental skills needed throughout life. In his introduction, Dr. Mills talked about preparing Sias IS students for the “real world” of employment. Through inquiry-based projects like the Rain Project, students must learn to collaborate as a team. Students need to use skills like creative thinking, problem-solving, and conflict-resolution to create a successful final product. When teachers provide these inquiry-based learning experiences for students as the fundamental teaching strategy, students build successful habits that will allow them to flourish as they continue through the IB Programme and move into employment.
By working on projects, in groups, and coordinating content from different disciplines, students are challenged to learn and collaborate in ways that emulate life. While creating positive academic experiences, specialist teachers provide safe learning environments where students feel free to express and challenge themselves individually in healthy ways while simultaneously developing their ability to collaborate and problem solve with peers. This self-motivation and peer collaboration creates a unique and independent learner in and out of the classroom; it creates both leader and successful team member.