PYP Exhibition without the trifold board … it is possible.

We did it … this year we eliminated the trifold display board for our PYP Exhibition community celebration.

What did it mean?

• It allowed our students to focus their time on thinking about creative ways to engage their audience rather than being limited by the traditional trifold board.

• Students devoted more time to their mode of expression  and created games and activities related to their issues, leaving people with a memory or a story rather than just facts. We had beautiful art work, songs, a dance, poetry and even infographics.

• It made the conversations at our community celebration richer, as students went beyond what would normally be on their display board.

• It was good for the environment. At the end of the celebration, there was trifold board that ended up in the dumpster or a house basement. 

Yes, it took some conversations with the students to help them reimagine what their booth might look like at the community celebration, but in the end I believe it was the right decision to help students engage more deeply in the learning process.


Guest Lecture: Punya Mishra – Explore|Create|Share

On Monday July 8 the MAET – Galway Year 1 Cohort had a guest lecture from Dr. Punya Mishra who is a Professor at the Michigan State College of Education and the  Co-director of the MAET program. He is one of the founders of the TPACK framework along with

Before beginning our talk, Punya had each member of the class write on the board their name, what they teach, and a hobbie or interest outside of school. If you weren’t there I would suggest writing these things down as they will be important later on.

The focus of the lecture was on Creativity and Teaching. One really interesting visual tool that he utilized were ambigrams. An ambigram is read the same way forwards, and when you turn it 180 degrees. This is an ambigram for the word creativity, created by Punya Mishra. Creativity is currently a “buzz word” in the education and business worlds and it has been identified as skill necessary for success in the 21st century, but can you really define creativity? What is creativITy? We have all heard of creativity, and we recognize it when we see it, but actually defining it is a challenge.

Punya Mishra proposed a “N.E.W.” way of defining creativity.

N – Novel
E – Effective/Useful
W – Whole

For a good overview of this concept, watch this video from Punya “Creativity, the new NEW (Novel, Effective, Whole)”.

Next, he discussed the importance of disciplinary knowledge as they teach us to see the world through different lenses. A mathematicians view of a problem, would be different than a biologists, would be different than a historians. Although disciplinary knowledge is important, it is also important to be able to see outside of that discipline as well.

Then we discussed some research being conducted by Dr. Danah Henriksen around creativity in teaching. She has conducted some interesting research around these themes and I am looking forward to seeing some of her current work be published as it is in the realm of trans-disciplinary frameworks, which is what I use in my teaching practice, and technology rich-contexts, which I am obviously interested in.

Stemming from the discussion of Dr. Henriksen’s work we discussed “How do you use your creative interests in the classroom to enrich your teaching?” (This is where the hobbie or interest outside of schools comes in). I had selected traveling as this is something that I seem to do every school break, so then I took some time to brainstorm how I have and could use my interest in travel to enrich my classroom environment.

Some of the things that I listed were – photos that have connections to curriculum units – i.e. pictures of landmarks from previous civilizations
– purchasing children’s books from around the world with stories from other cultures
– picking up rock samples for our geology unit from other locations around the world

It was interesting to think about how my interest in traveling does translate into a lot of curricular areas that we discuss in my class. I also think that sharing some of my stories from traveling helps to humanize me and make connections with my students.

Obviously, if you had other interests your list could be significantly different from mine – but I think the important thing is that you are utilizing your passion to get the kids passionate about learning. I think that if students have a role model who is passionate about something, they are more likely to find something to be passionate about because they will see the meaning that it can bring you.

After this discussion, the lecture moved to how are we going to prepare students for the NEW (creative/21st century) world. A lot of the reading I have done recently is around this topic, and how we include 21st century skills in the classroom – and there is a lot of discussion but it is not an easy thing to define. Punya discussed about the need to “learn to see” and “to wonder why”, we have to be actively observing the world around us and looking for opportunities to see learning so that we can use those opportunities to enrich the learning of our students.

At the end of our session he asked us to create some type of verse to summarize the main ideas from the guest lecture. This was my creation.

See the ordinary as learning opportunities
Apply disciplinary knowledge
Think flexibly to conceptualize learning and
Experience the world around you


Mishra, P. (2013, July). MAET Year 1 Guest Lecture. Lecture conducted from National University of Ireland, Galway.

Day 11 – QuickFire – Marshmallow Challenge

The quick fire today was the 18-minute Marshmallow Challenge. If you haven’t heard of the Marshmallow Challenge, I encourage you to check out there webpage and arrange to host a challenge yourself. It is a great team building, problem solving task for all ages.

Today we had 4 members in each group and each group was given the supplies specified by the official challenge webpage – 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of masking tape, 1 yard of string, and 1 marshmallow.

Tom, Jim, Myself, Abby  Photo Credit: Abby Seigel

Tom, Jim, Myself, Abby
Photo Credit: Abby Seigel

Quickly as the challenge began, our group discussed the structural properties of triangles and began to construct a triangular pyramid. After building the pyramid, we discussed what the next step might be – would we built on top of the pyramid and attach the marshmallow there? We decided that it would be too heavy and would fall down, so we need to raise the pyramid that we had build up higher. Looking at the number of spaghetti sticks that we had left we decided to continue to build in the triangular pattern to try and rain the main pyramid, while still maintaining the structural integrity.

In the end we attached our marshmallow to the top using two spaghetti sticks that we taped together at multiple locations for added strength. The structure was very stable and the marshmallow stayed as vertical as we could expect.  In the end we were victorious but in the end everyone was able to learn some valuable lessons about design, innovation, creativity, and collaboration.

After the challenge we watched the TED Talk based on the research and trends when this challenge is executed. It was interesting that some of the most innovate and creative designs were created by Kindergarten students, and  the least successful when there was a monetary reward attached to the completion of the task. When I think about how these concepts apply to problem solving, I think it is important to try and not be attached to things that we know, and pay attention to what the problem is telling us. The process of iterative design, where by you make small adjustments toward improvement has very applicable uses in many types of problem solving tasks such as the Marshmallow Challenge. Iterative design is one thing that I spend a lot of time working with my Robotics Team on, completing small parts of the mission at a time to work toward the larger goal. I think that this concept can be utilized better in other areas for solving problems that are structured in messy or challenging parameters.