The Island Project was a PYP/Inquiry-Based curriculum that I piloted during the 2017-2018 school year at the American International School of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. The reason I decided to create an entire curriculum was twofold. One, the students were learning from typical 4th grade programs (Lucy Calkins, Pearson math, etc.) which did not really inspire them. This made creating a positive and engaging learning environment difficult. Secondly, the students were lacking in opportunities to transfer and apply their learning. When AISJ underwent a curriculum review during 2017 my principal, Michele Light and curriculum director, along with my teammates were open to the idea of trying something new, so we dove in.
The Island Project integrated all of the 4th grade AERO standards by basing the curriculum around the idea that each student was stranded via shipwreck on their own island in the Indian Ocean. This notion was plausible because due to continental drift, the subcontinent of India had broken away from Africa and moved north, leaving behind several islands. The students were then subjected to a series of "events" during which something happened to them or their island. These "events" occurred each morning which the students journaled. This integrated narrative writing into the experience and created the opportunity to introduce new curriculum material and drive inquiry.
During the course of the Island Project the students were introduced to a variety of scenarios and characters. In the beginning, after being stranded the students discovered "planimals" which were plant-animal hybrids that they had to create which allowed them to explore plant and animal anatomy in science, different forms of government after they discovered inhabitants on the island, mapping, which integrated tenets of multiplication and division, fiction in the form of Pippi Longstocking and Swiss Family Robinson and informational writing where the students reported on different sea creatures, and a tsunami which wiped out a significant portion of the island and forced the migration and integration of different tribes of which the students were a part.
Overall, the Island Project was considered a resounding success. We decorated our room and expanded our learning beyond the normal classwork we were doing. It provided a focus for the students and created relevance which allowed the students to retain a lot of what they learned and transfer it to other subject areas.
Below are some photos of my students at their end of the year showcase. As you can see, they are wearing clothing which was either as they imagined their islanders would traditionally dress or as they felt the dress was changed based on outside influences. At the showcase the students displayed their daily narrative journals which outlined the progress they made on their islands and a set of maps of their islands that they measured, scaled, and changed throughout the school year including different governments, territories, cities and villages. They also created commercials for their islands which could be viewed on iPads and handheld devices via the HP Reveal app when they were pointed at each students' island flag. Additionally, the students showed off houses they created in Minecraft that they engineered to withstand a variety of natural disasters and functioning boats that they built so they could study kinetic and potential energy. All of their products were the result of lessons created so that they could apply their skills in a trans-disciplinary fashion.
Examples of the students' commercials can be found here: