Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher once said, “change is the only constant in life.” What may have been once thought of as implausible only becomes possible as time passes; medical breakthroughs, the Internet of Things (smart technologies), automation advancement and the list continues as we witness how life changes right before our eyes. The hope of what can be and what is to come is awe-inspiring. On the other hand, real-world global challenges, food shortage, war, new diseases and global warming give us the sense of urgency that we need change, innovation and action to ensure a better world for our future generations.
“What is specifically important for young people to embrace when it comes to innovation is not just science and technology per se. It is the mindset for innovation, the ability to navigate the messiness of real world future situations,” comments Ms. Haihong Sun, an innovation and design thinking expert and also the Director of the Youth Innovation Academy at WISS. This “mindset of innovation” known as Design Thinking is “a strategy to elicit creativity rooted in empathy and gain comfort with and confidence in failure,” says Ms. Sun. It is empathy which motivates us to find creative and sustainable solutions when faced with tough challenges.
Unlike the education of past generations that focused on rote memorization, teacher-centered instruction and university entrance as the end goal, our current world situation demands for a new mindset, a new approach to tackling these huge issues. An IB education at WISS, our mission, our core values, and the Learner Profile are purposefully shifting the education mindset to think on a grander scale, to think with a global perspective and the future in mind. Our role as an IB community is to instill and encourage our students to see what is broken and feel moved to act out of compassion in order to create a better and more peaceful world.
First year DP students, Serena Fu and Cathy Zhang have experienced illness as a part of their daily lives. Both girls have grown up around hospitals, doctors and namely, cancer. For Serena, with both parents as oncologists, talking about medical research projects, strategies, training and development in the field of medicine is normal for her. For Cathy, it was a cancer diagnosis of a close family member that peaked her interest to know more about the field of oncology. Both girls developed an interest to pursue the sciences and are fully committed in moving in that direction for the future. Serena, is interested in being behind the future technologies and innovations, “which are able to overcome the many impossible conditions we face nowadays.” Similarly, Cathy also sees the pressing and “imminent issues such as the proliferation of ‘superbugs’, HIV/AIDS, and cancer,” as a motivation to further her science education.
“They have a goal and it appears to effectively motivate them,” says Mr. Philippe Roy, DP Chemistry Teacher. For Serena and Cathy both Ms. Terri Mosher (DP Biology) and Mr. Roy have noticed that the ability to collaborate and have a common goal is a key factor in their motivation to learn. Ms. Mosher notes that, “They work together well, revise together and will challenge each other with questions.” “It’s unusual for me to see two high school students working so hard together at the top of the class,” comments Mr. Roy. Teaching the sciences to motivated students like Serena and Cathy needs to balance both the important foundational, content knowledge in the subject area but also must inspire them to think creatively and innovatively, as to what is their role in shaping the future. Seeing the connections of medicine, politics, and the environment are part of the transdisciplinary learning happening within the IB. IB students are challenged to make links across subjects and in real world situations thus enabling them to think creatively and outside of the box. Both classes incorporate lessons that look at the historical significance, technological advances, and ethics debates surrounding relevant and current topics in the scientific fields today. “The level of thinking in the Diploma Programme is beyond that of a typical high school classroom in a national curriculum. There is a deeper philosophical thinking that these DP students get into. They push themselves and dig deeper into the meaning and links of items,” comments Ms. Mosher.
Inspiration cannot be taught, rather, it is communicated through an engaging and child-focused learning environment. Serena and Cathy view the accessibility and approachability of their teachers as instrumental in supporting their passion to pursue medicine. Serena notes how Chemistry classes taught by Mr. Roy are “enjoyable and fun, challenging while at the same time able to explore more in depth into different fields of sciences.” Both the girls have been encouraged to seek outside opportunities to further their inquisitive minds. Serena, on the recommendation of Ms. Mosher, spent a summer in Indonesia studying biodiversity and Cathy is extending her research interests and will be one of the speakers at WISS TEDx Youth event this Spring. By being globally connected as an international program, “DP teachers are constantly exposed to techniques and thinking of other cultures, and other schools with widely varying resources,” says Mr. Roy. Thus, allowing our teachers to bring the very best teaching practices and current events from around the globe to the students at WISS.
Students at WISS are encouraged to truly understand that their learning and future aspirations are purposed to bringing greater good this world and future generations. As educators and parents of the WISS community, teaching and modeling for our kids to think and make ethical decisions rooted in empathy and compassion, is how we know our future is in good hands.