My school has taken the first steps towards becoming a PYP school this year. The PYP journey will be a lengthy and perhaps even a rocky one. This together with the implementation of the new Australian Curriculum will see many changes both for teachers and students in the next few years. This term we began this journey with the implementation of our first truly authentic Inquiry units. Based on the work of Kath Murdoch and the principles of Backwards Design we met several times, in our stage groups to plan our Inquiry questions and our tuning in phases. We used our outcome and indicator statements to plan our assessment tasks and our essential questions.

And that was it. No lessons were planned. No units were written, no worksheets consulted. No readings prepared, no direct preparation. Nothing. This was to be true student led inquiry based learning.

As we stood in front of Year 6 with only our major essential question ‘Can I make a difference to my environment’ and our minor questions ‘do beliefs influence behaviours?’, ‘out of sight, out of mind?’ and ‘what environments need attention?’ I was definitely out of my comfort zone. We had a rough idea of where we wanted our first discussions to venture but no real sense of where our students would go with this.

Fast forward to week six. During that time we have explored many websites, often created by children who are doing their bit to ‘make a difference to the world’. We have discussed issues such as, why some of our students are currently onto their fourth or even fifth mobile phones? Just where do the old ones go? We have emptied our school rubbish bins and audited our school waste. We have plotted our own carbon footprints. Next week we will all carry biodegradable bags with us, so we can audit our own waste as part of the ‘trash on your back’ challenge.

During our two integrated studies classroom times a week, year six is buzzing. Small groups are working together formulating proposals to send to our principal to reduce our school rubbish. Others are creating a website devoted to reducing water wastage. Plans are afoot to clean a local park. Posters and slide shows are being created raising awareness of whaling, of straw use and the plight of the rhinos. Students are blogging, writing letters and developing plans. The first Glogster on ‘How to reduce your carbon footprint’ is waiting for comments on our class blog.

As we track their learning and reflect on our outcomes and indicator statements my buddy Pru and I are feeling good. True authentic learning is happening right under our noses and not only that we are sure that our essential question will soon switched from ‘Can I make a difference to my environment?’ to ‘I can make a difference to my environment!’

Has this been easy? Not really. Have all our lessons gone to plan? No definitely not. More than once I have had to think on my feet and change directions mid sentence. Am I looking forward to planning our next unit of Inquiry? Yes I am. Authentic learning for teachers and students.

Leave a Reply


  1. Steve Box

    It is an exciting and challenging time, but I am sure you will all appreciate it when the Students live and breathe PYP.

  2. Daniel Wong

    The learning here appears to be causing students to take purposeful actions to find out and then undertake projects based on their findings. This sounds very exciting. I wonder if you would be able to share with us how you are tracking their learning?

  3. Viviene Tuckerman

    Excellent topic to study in this inquiry based model of learning. The students are working out real world solutions and carrying them out.

  4. henriettami

    Thank you for your kind words Steve, I will certainly be in contact as we progress on the route to PYP.

  5. henriettami

    All our students are keeping reflective journals of their learning, so on an ongoing basis I am viewing those. I am also keeping anecdotal notes as they go and talking regularly to each student, so that I am clear what they are doing with their time. At the end of term each student will complete a writing task. Called, Did I make a difference to my environment? Since they have created their own success criteria and will be reflecting on them i should be able to track the learning through matching those and the writing together. That is the theory anyway! I will let you know how it all pans out.