Exploring Education at WIS
By: Grade 4 Teachers
Recently, Grade Four had a whole-grade morning meeting to discuss why our school mission statement and core values are important to us as learners at Washington International School. Students were informed that this day would be a day for continued discussions connected to the PYP Unit of Inquiry “Migration” (which they had studied last year), as well as to the grade’s recent discussions about civil rights issues and the current events related to immigration and refugees.
The students looked at our mission and value statements (they can be found here) in English, French, and Spanish. They asked questions, connected with what the words mean to them, and started to think about why they, as WIS students, need to become "responsible and effective world citizens."
A particular focus of our discussions centered around the wording from WIS Core Value Three: "engagement with diverse cultural perspectives." Students recognized that without being open-minded to the cultural perspectives of others, they are not valuing the diversity we have within our own school community.
After this discussion, the students watched a presentation by Habiba Belguedj about the world refugee crisis, particularly looking at Syria. They engaged with Habiba by asking interesting questions and delivering personal stories of immigration or knowledge about refugees, and then reflected deeply about this issue.
In the afternoon, students were given an opportunity to write, using words from the International Baccalaureate learner profile (this represents 10 attributes that internationally-minded individuals and groups should strive to develop) and the IB PYP attitudes (appreciation, commitment, confidence, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empathy, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect, tolerance) to express their emotions and to describe their thoughts regarding our day's discussions.
Two examples of student reflection are below:"This presentation changed the way I look at my ordinary life. Now, more than ever, I realize how lucky I am and how unlucky other people are. I cannot imagine being in the middle of a war zone, constantly in danger, and seeing bone-chilling things that I could never forget. I am glad that Ms. Habiba did that presentation for us, because not only did it inspire me, but hopefully it inspired other students too. I found the fact that Habiba thought of others and spent her time, energy and money, just to make others feel at home, absolutely heartwarming…." (Clara R.)
"Some men fall to meet a horrible fate,While others stand by, forced to wait,To stop the horrible displays of hate,They pray for a new world to come.
Some men are the puppeteers,Watch as families are reduced to tears, Walk, sometimes for endless years,As they wish for a new world to come.
Some men try to make things right,Try to save the world from deathly night,Work to save, and bring into light,It is they, who'll bring the new world of love.
Some men teach, explain through words,That people coming together like a flock of lovebirds,Can save the people hurt by bombs in herds,Saved from horror in the new world to come.
Some men sit back, forgetting that allThe castles of peace have not yet made their fall,We must save the world from this ugly brawl!Peace in the new world to come.
Some men are the refugees,Tired and starving, all in need,All of us need to come forward and lead,The world into the new world to come." (Georgia T.)
These thoughtful reflections are proof that our students truly are on the path to becoming responsible and effective world citizens.
By: Carole Geneix, Director of Teaching and Learning, Grades 6-12
The Upper School journalism class is all about building news literacy in a digital age. Using critical thinking skills, the students explore one of the essential questions of the course:
What is the role of journalism in a democratic society, and how can we become responsible consumers and producers of news and information in the digital age?
Here are some deep questions students are engaged with in the journalism course:
How do you find out what’s going on in the world? Where do you get your news? How do you think your parents or other older people might answer that question?
What do we as a community of learners need from each other to have a safe yet courageous conversation in this unit?
What is the relationship between identity and the way we respond to news and information?
How does the way you see yourself differ from the way that others see you? Why do these differences exist and how do they affect our interactions? How does it affect our work as journalists or reporters?
What is confirmation bias and how does it relate to our implicit biases?
What are the differences between facts, opinions, and generalizations? (Do a FOG analysis of a document. Identify and record the Facts, Opinions, and Generalizations in your news reports.)
What is the relationship between social media and the practice of quality journalism?
A yearly tradition at WIS, International Week at the Primary School is a favorite among students and faculty alike. The purpose of this week is to both highlight the international community within the School’s population and to appreciate the different countries and cultures of the world. Students and teachers (and parents!) are encouraged to wear cultural outfits from their home countries, as well as countries they have visited or simply appreciate.
As in years past, International Week began on Monday morning with a school-wide assembly of various cultural performances from our students and families. Grade 5 students and assembly emcees Charlotte and Klara introduced each of the acts and kept the event moving smoothly. Some highlights included: a gymnastics routine; songs by European composers performed on the flute, violin, and piano; a Chinese cultural performance, and the entire Early Childhood division leading the school in singing “It’s a Small World” in four different languages.
Participation in International Week is not limited to our students and faculty. Parents are also given the opportunity to decorate one of the many bulletin boards outside of the classrooms with displays that represent their home nations. Parents have the option to use maps, flags, pictures of cultural treasures or landmarks, reproductions of important documents of a country, pictures of native food, animals, musical instruments, famous people, and more. These bright and lively creations span six continents and truly demonstrate the international part of WIS. Click here for a slideshow of this year’s bulletin boards.
Each class at the Primary School takes a tour of the boards at least once during International Week. Faculty member Dolores Virasoro explains, “They look at the board and take notes, or write about something that grabs their attention. Some of the younger students have passports, and some of the boards have stickers/flags/stamps that they can put in their passports. Of course, the classes cannot go through all of them in detail because it would take too long. So then they are welcome to come back and look on their own, and look with parents on their own, and read more about each country.”
This year, there was a new addition to the boards: one dedicated to refugees. The Grade 3 students had just finished their PYP Unit of Inquiry called Migration, and the teachers of Grades 3 and 4 knew it was important to discuss the plight of refugees, especially in light of the current crisis in Syria and new US Immigration policies. Both classes had the opportunity to watch a presentation by Habiba Belguedj about the world refugee crisis, particularly looking at Syria. Students from each grade were very engaged in this presentation, asking questions and reflecting deeply.
International Week also fits in with the current Grade 1 PYP Unit of Inquiry: People Around the World. During this six-week unit, parents were invited to come into the classes to share cultural experiences and customs from their native countries with the students. These visits helped to give our students a better understanding and appreciation for all the wonderful diversity at WIS.
On the Thursday of International Week, the Early Childhood classes hosted a parade down their hallway to the Multipurpose Room, where parents were invited to watch them sing “It’s a Small World” in English, French, and Spanish. Each student carried a flag (or flags) to designate his or her country, and some students wore outfits to represent their cultures. In the afternoon, the entire school gathered again for a final assembly, which featured a song performed by the school choir and a visit from a local professional dance and music troupe: the KanKouran West African Dance Company. These four musicians and dancers enthralled the audience with their mix of dance, drumming, and crowd participation. Some of our students and teachers were invited to perform with them, and at the end, the entire school was asked to dance along with the music.
It’s safe to say this year’s International Week was another success. Students, faculty, staff, and parents all enjoyed the different activities, and each of the ninety countries represented at WIS was highlighted in some way. And while the students were taught about the differences of each culture, they also learned the most important lesson of all: when these different cultures are celebrated together, a true community is formed.
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