ISA Connections Issue 11

Page 12

Asked and Answered

By Megan Amelia

A popular person for sending a letter to was Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, with four students writing directly to him to voice their concerns about plastics A core principle of student inquiry within the ISA Primary Years Programme (PYP) is that ideas come directly from students. Grade 2 teacher Melanie Smith believes this is what makes the PYP such an

damaging the environment. As luck would have it, one of the students, Bo Gunning, had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Rutte at ‘het Torentje’, his office in The Hague, to personally hand over her classmates’

exciting curriculum for both teachers and learners.


So when her students began learning about persua-

Weeks later, to the delight of the now grade 3 stu-

sive writing in class, Smith wanted the lesson to have a real-life context, to allow her seven-and-eight year olds to see that, even as children, their ideas had the potential to make tangible change in the world. She asked them to write a letter to a real reader to persuade them about a topic that students felt was

dents, Prime Minister Rutte replied to each and every one of their letters, thanking them for raising awareness of their issues and explaining the actions he had taken to address their cause, such as introducing a ban on free plastic bags in the Netherlands and encouraging companies to develop more


sustainable packaging.

“I am very passionate about children building

Rutte wrote, “It is a good thing to know that children

conceptual understanding through inquiry-based learning. I want children to understand that their voices are powerful and they can make a difference. Through such inquiries, children are able to build conceptual understandings that they will be able to transfer to different situations throughout their lives.” More than just a pen pal Smith’s students began by considering which issues mattered the most to them, raising topics such as the harmful effects of plastics in the ocean and the importance of wearing a helmet while cycling. They also considered persuading influential people who had the power to make real change, such as J.K. Rowling, Emma Watson and even President Vladimir

are also considering such important issues. I think it is of the utmost importance that we change our throwaway culture. We need to raise awareness—in companies, shops and schools. The solution starts here.” While all of the students may not have received a response, knowing that some of their classmates did was encouraging and helped them to gain an understanding of persuasion and raising awareness. There’s an old saying that “it never hurts to ask” and, for these students, asking led them beyond their



Smith felt that it was necessary to emphasise to her

them to have their voices

students that even though they might not receive a




classroom and allowed heard.

reply from such a high profile person, “raising awareness of the issues was still very important”. 11