“The International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (PYP)
endorses a belief that students learn best when the learning is authentic
and transdisciplinary - relevant to the real world - where the learning is
not confined within the boundaries of traditional subject areas but is
supported and enriched by them” (Making the PYP happen: A curriculum
framework for international primary education, 2009).
What adds significance to student learning in the PYP is its commitment
to a transdisciplinary model. Contributing to transdisciplinary learning in
the PYP is student engagement with units of inquiry at each year level.
The development of each unit of inquiry is focused on a central idea that
supports conceptual development.
The Grade 5 team approached their central idea under the PYP
Transdisciplinary Theme - ‘How the World Works’ in an innovative way to
authentically bring the practice of Making into the elementary classroom.
The unit’s central idea was “Natural resources can be manipulated to
generate and store energy for daily use.” This unit led to designing
engagements and building background knowledge of the different forms
of energy sources, how energy is generated, stored, delivered and used,
and the sustainability of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources.
Throughout the unit we combined Maker with multiple literacies to
ensure that practices and skills were embedded into the unit in an
authentic way. Students used non-fiction reading and writing skills to
develop a strong body of knowledge that could then be applied to their
Making and testing and reflecting on the prototype.
As units within the PYP use the backward design process, the summative
assessment was presented to students in the form of an inquiry
challenge: Students had to apply their knowledge of how energy is
stored, generated and delivered to create a prototype that uses a natural
source to create and use energy, for example, a source of light. Their
audience could be their Kindergarten reading buddies or their NGO
buddies the children from ACORN in Dharavi, Mumbai. Students were
given a choice of the form of presentation for their prototype. They could