Springtime means Exhibition for many of the upper elementary students in Bloomfield Hills Schools. Within the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, Kindergarten through 5th graders are Primary Years Programme (PYP) students. An important part of this program is becoming knowledgeable about the world in order to determine what individuals can do to make meaningful contributions to our local and global communities. Exhibition is the PYP capstone experience, during which upper elementary students take responsibility for the design, organization, and successful completion of an in-depth inquiry project.
West Hills Middle School is an International Baccalaureate school that is home to the final two years of the Primary Years Programme, and the first three years of the Middle Years Programme (grades 6 - 10). Spanning approximately 6 weeks of time, every 5th grader, in a small group, focuses on a narrowed topic within the Great Lakes theme, and presents their findings to family, friends, teachers, and other community members on Exhibition night. Additionally, they share music and art connected to their learning. This is the second year that West Hills has focused on the Great Lakes theme, which is a natural extension of the 5th grade curriculum. This allows for a strong knowledge base to be developed over the course of the year before students begin their deep-dive of a more narrowed topic. This year's topics included oil pipelines in Michigan, pollution in the Great Lakes, endangered animals, shipwrecks, Isle Royale wolves, invasive species, lighthouse restoration, water safety, algal blooms, dunes and beaches, Great Lakes recreation, laws affecting the Great Lakes, and Great Lakes economy.
5th grade student Katiana Kostoff shares, "our group's topic was water safety. I learned that Lake Michigan is the most dangerous Great Lake, because it's very narrow, so it has strong rip currents. My favorite part of Exhibition night was presenting, and seeing the work that we did for such a long time come together and make a presentation. Exhibition is about making friends, and helping each other learn. It was amazing!"
5th grade students are the Master of Ceremonies (MCs); they begin and end the evening's ceremony, performing skits to explain what Exhibition is all about. Zayan Harati, one of the MCs, shares, "the highlight of Exhibition was a tie between the MC'ing and the presentations. It felt good to stand in front of everyone and talk about something that's important, like pollution. I had so much fun in Exhibition!"
Conant Elementary School's 4th grade students also recently completed Exhibition. At Conant, students reflect on global issues to find their passion, and work collaboratively to develop their own units of study to explore, prepare multimedia presentations to share with the public, and take action to make this world a better place. The list of class inquiries this year include: bullying, water pollution, homelessness, distracted driving, smoking/vaping, Leukemia, Pediatric Brain Cancer, Women's Rights, and endangered animals such as the Red Wolf, Black-Footed Ferret, and the Canadian Lynx.
Conant student, Baird George, shares about their group's action project to help the endangered black-footed ferret, "We made cootie catchers which is an origami fortune teller used in children's game. However, instead of fortunes we wrote facts about the black-foot ferret. We sold them for $1 each at recess. Our goal was to raise $180, and we raised $280! We donated the money to the American Ferret Association." Mirabelle Boivin adds, "After learning about these global issues we are inspired to act and change our behavior. We volunteered at homeless shelters, we donated toys to children with cancer, we took pledges to stop bullying, we tried to walk or ride our bikes over driving to help with global warming, created posters to hang at the middle schools to prevent smoking and vaping, and there was even more we did. It felt good that we could make a difference!"
West Hills IB coordinator Jen Teal reflects on the program: "Exhibition really highlights the importance of the learning process. If you ask students what they think of it during the unit, they will likely talk about being overwhelmed, having disagreements with other group members, struggling to find resources or come up with a solution, and feeling nervous about speaking in front of a large group of adults. The process is not easy. It requires that students critically inquire about their world, grapple with complex issues, look at multiple perspectives, and take responsible action. But on Exhibition Night, when students have an opportunity to share their learning and experience, it is magical. Their pride in what they have accomplished is immense. And the day after Exhibition, when students share what the experience has meant to them, their reflections are profound. Exhibition is a wonderful capstone as well as an important bridge to the next part of their IB journey."