The Danger of a Single Story

By: Paula Swartz, MYP Coordinator

A large part of the Grade 9 Canada exchange is participating in an Interdisciplinary Unit together with the Branksome Hall Canada Grade 9 students. The inquiry is shaped by the following statement: Respectful connections within our communities allow us to explore our identities and common humanity. The IDU title, The Danger of a Single Story, encompasses the ideal of respect and dignity for all people.

Interdisciplinary learning in the MYP is deeply grounded in the disciplines represented within the MYP subject groups. For this inquiry, we collaboratively planned with our Branksome Hall Canada colleagues, choosing Individuals & Societies and English Language & Literature as the two subject groups involved in the unit.

This IDU is a wonderful opportunity for our students to employ methods of historical research to understand multiple perspectives outside of dominant Canadian narratives and make connections to common experiences. Working with primary and secondary sources, the students analyze the perspectives and experiences of people in diverse Toronto communities in order to develop empathy for their unique challenges and contributions.

What forces shape our preconceptions about other communities? What defines our common humanity? How do we express our identities? How do we connect with people through our common humanity? How have various communities overcome challenges and contributed to the development of Toronto’s identity as a diverse city? These are just some of the questions investigated through authentic first-hand experiences in Toronto. 

I was personally touched when our community was welcomed into the local mosque with open arms. They answered our students' questions with thoughtfulness and transparency, and gave us access to their entire worship space. It is experiences like these that will guide our students to be open-minded and caring adults who will shape a better world.

In their approach to learning, students developed their social skills by creating a visual text to be part of a collaborative art piece. In doing so, students listened actively to other perspectives and ideas. With guest artists and experts, specific skill strategies were explicitly modeled, taught and practiced. Students worked in mixed groupings to decide on a color palette and on ways to unify their individual pieces.

BHA and BHC working collaboratively
 

Artwork on display throughout the school community 

One student's exploration of identity
 

Group photo of BHA and BHC students

I think everyone would agree that MYP Interdisciplinary Units benefit our students greatly and are a means of relevant and engaging learning in the IB Program.