Re-thinking a unit of inquiry: Knowledge and understanding

It has only been a week that we were off, but I really relaxed and now it feels like I haven’t been to school for a long time!
Exciting as it is, I am posed with challenges… learning that occurred and questions I have asked myself during the week off, clash with my current practice a little. I wonder what I can do about that?

Lets look at the scenario: The current unit of inquiry, Life Cycles, is going okay. I say that because the students have all engaged in their own, personal inquiries. But somehow the unit is posing challenges to me as we go along. I posted a question about key concepts on PYP Threads and received two interesting replies that make me want to rethink and restart. I guess this will all go back into the reflection bit of the planner eventually and can be improved later on.

However, to get started on those challenges, lets look at Jax’s reply first:

There’s so much great stuff there that I don’t want to be at all negative but my residing feeling is…that I’m not quite sure how one might hope that students of this age group meaningfully apply an understanding of your CI.
It seems that the outcome that is sought is very heavy based in knowledge, without a clear sense of relevance to the students themselves.
I can see your confusion with the concepts, but for me the residing question is about the purpose of the unit.
If you unravel the Unit back to a review the Organising Theme and ask yourself how will the children USE this understanding now and in the future, determining acceptable evidence might help you to review driving concepts?
Happy to help if I can be a thinking partner! If I don’t just add further confusion!!

As one can see, this is quite thought-provoking. And good! Because this has been nagging at me for a bit.
Lets take the feedback apart and see if I can address this as we go along here.

Meaningful application of understanding of the Central Idea/
Relevance of the unit to the students.
Outcome is heavily based on knowledge.

I like the question: What is the purpose of the unit. Lets unravel this a little then. The unit, Life Cycles, falls under the organizing theme: How the World Works. Traditionally, and this is often a very dangerous area to consider in my view, this unit is heavily science based.
The organizing theme states:

An inquiry into the natural world and its laws; the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.
With the central idea being “The Life Cycles of living thing contribute to their continuation”, I would say this is an inquiry into the natural world and its laws.

And this is where I get sort of stuck….. I guess we would have to ask: Why do we need to know the natural world and its laws? What do we need to know, and again, why? How can we gain an understanding of the natural world? Connect it to ourselves? Is that meaningful? We are part of the natural world, and governed by its natural laws too. Such as life cycles, and reproduction. (Just a note to myself and my original question: This is the connection part I was thinking of!)

Is this what makes the unit relevant to the students though?  Was the original consideration of this unit only knowledge-based? What is the understanding we want children to construct? What is the understanding possible to construct through this unit?

What relevance do the related concepts, growth and cycles, play here? Is this unit really suitable for 8-9 year-olds? Should it not be?

All these questions, in the early evening hours of the day before I am about to leap into the second to last week of this unit.

What to do? I really would LOVE replies to this! (more about the other reply another time)


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