Hi Shasta, tell us a bit about yourself. Hi, my name is Shasta Gray, and this is my first year teaching at THINK Global School. I received my master's in teaching from the University of Alaska and have been teaching since 2012. I consider Alaska home, but I spent three years living and teaching in Thailand before joining TGS. I've always had an affinity for the great outdoors, and love...Read More
Our recent CM2 fall term, which took place between October and December in Dubai, was a memorable one for students as it coincided with Expo 2020. The Expo is the oldest and largest international event on the planet, and Expo 2020 is expected to draw a projected 25 million tourists from 190 countries.
The purpose of Expo 2020 is to serve as a “global gathering to share ideas, showcase innovation, encourage collaboration, and celebrate human ingenuity.” For our CM2 students, it was an opportunity to participate in a global communal moment, the likes of which hadn’t been since the pandemic began.
Students had the opportunity to set up a “home base” at the Dubai Cares Pavilion throughout the term. The Dubai Cares Pavilion was established to provide an experience “that explores the transformative power of education and questions how we are preparing ourselves and the future generations for increasing disruption and adaptability.”
The Pavilion’s onsite location was of tremendous benefit to our students, as it provided the perfect environment to digest their experiences and collaborate on their project work — all while surrounded by the exuberance of Expo 2020. The Dubai Cares Pavilion also served as the site for the end-of-term PBL showcase, where students had the opportunity to present their project findings and engage in TED-style talks about the future of education.
Below you can learn more about the term, including the project modules our students participated in during their time in the United Arab Emirates.
Following a short quarantine period as students awaited their PCR test results, CM2 Principal Russell Cailey led a full-cohort reflection session in which students utilized foresight tools from the Institute for the Future to frame the term. Educator Dan Garvey then introduced the term’s protocols, including basic rules related to safety, residence procedures, and roommate contracts.
On day two of Orientation Week, students met up with their individual or dual advisory groups and explored Dubai through its food. This allowed students to reconnect with their advisors and integrate the handful of students who were unable to join CM2 in Dubai last term (both Term 1 and Term 2 took place in Dubai for the CM2 cohort). Day two was capped off with an all-cohort dinner cruise down Dubai Creek, filled with delicious food, fantastic scenery, and lively company.
The last day of Orientation Week was another opportunity for our CM2 community to bond and test their core value of grit. As a final challenge, students and staff took part in a grueling hike to the summit of the Al Rabi hiking trail. Located on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates, the Al Rabi hiking trail provides sweeping panoramic views of the Hajar mountain range and the port city of Khor Fakkan below. Some community members made it to one summit, some made it to two, and some knew their limits and simply went as far as they could.
Sports and Fitness
Alongside academics, we place a heavy focus on our students’ social-emotional health and physical wellbeing. To do so, we help students lead healthier and balanced lives through our physical education program, leading to a higher collective moral and emotional stability.
Each country holds a variety of opportunities to immerse students into a form of sport or athletics, and the United Arab Emirates was no different. This term, our CM2 students took part in rock climbing, boxing, and soccer. These activities require students to practice teamwork, self-awareness, and other 21st century skills that will prove invaluable as they progress beyond TGS.
At least once per term, we suspend our schedule and hit the road to experience our host country through deep immersion and activities. For our CM2 students, this meant embarking on a tech-free camping excursion in mountainous Wadi Showka.
The weXplore provided a chance to escape the big city and build an even greater sense of our core value, ubuntu, and learn potentially life-saving skills.
Instructors from Absolute Adventure taught our students backcountry navigation with only a map and compass and led a day-long first aid certification course. At the conclusion of the course, students had the chance to apply their new skills by trekking along mountain paths and engaging in simulated medical scenarios.
Project You Collaboration
For the second part of their weXplore, CM2 returned to Dubai for a collaborative event with the Dubai Future Foundation and Project You.
Project You are focused on bridging the gap between schools and the real world. They do so by providing a series of workshops aimed at schools and held in conjunction with community groups and the government.
Students spent a couple of jam-packed days sharing cultures, opinions, ideas, and the issues that matter to them. Following seminars from a variety of special guest speakers on artificial intelligence, study habits, and more, TGS students worked alongside 30 Emirati students in a design challenge. At the end of the experience, they pitched their ideas to a panel of Dubai-based experts.
Core Themes and Project Modules
All three of our project modules used the Expo’s pavilions and exhibits as a haven for experiential learning throughout the term. Students had multiple opportunities to visit the Expo and learn firsthand about global projects tied to the event’s three core themes of opportunity, mobility, and sustainability. Each of these overlying themes is home to a corresponding district, filled with a variety of thought-provoking pavilions that delve deeper into the district’s theme.
These three themes also factored heavily into our students’ projects this term. If you are unfamiliar with how learning at THINK Global School works, the most important thing to know is that our curriculum is centered around the instructional philosophy of project-based learning.
Each term, our students select one of three modules to work on while in-country alongside at least one personal project of their choosing. You can learn more about our student-centered approach to learning here.
Term 2 Project Modules
For Term 2, our CM2 students selected from one of the three modules shown above. Underneath the module’s name, you can find the driving question that students worked towards answering during the eight-week term.
Desert Housing Module
Some of our CM2 students participated in the Desert Housing module this term. They focused on answering the following driving question: How can I design and build a model home or community that will function efficiently in a desert environment?
Over the course of the term, students used the ideas from the Expo and architecture they viewed in Dubai, often influenced by Islamic art, to create scale models of an energy-efficient desert home.
To further their knowledge on desert housing, students visited three Expo 2020 pavilions: the Germany Pavilion, the Austria Pavilion, and the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority Pavilion. These visits allowed participants to see technological innovations in action and compile a catalog of resources related to sustainable architecture and energy-efficient technologies.
Experiential Learning Opportunities
Besides Expo 2020, participants in the Desert Housing module took a learning excursion to Sustainable City, a community in Dubai consisting of 500 residential villas, 11 biodomes for urban farming, a commercial plaza, an equestrian club, and much more. Their experience began with Senior Urban Planner Marwa Nahlawi, who provided an informative Q&A on sustainable design solutions over a city model.
The students and educators then accompanied Visitor Relations Coordinator Anastasia on a golf-kart tour of a biodome and one of the villas. The information proved to be instrumental in helping students understand how and why to make specific design decisions for their energy-efficient model homes.
Fresh Air Project by Sara G.
This module was unique to me, as I had never known how interested I was in architecture until I experienced it during these two months. I have also learned the importance of focusing on the journey and the learning instead of making my product look perfect.
-Class of 2023 Student Sara G.
Are you looking for a house that is both nature-friendly and luxurious? Then my project, “Fresh Air,” is perfect for you! Located in The Palm Islands, it combines different panoramic views, from the relaxing beach view to the moat with the fish, and finally, the lush green spaces all around the house.
This house combines many aspects of sustainability: It saves water by taking it from the beach and using it in the pool and the moat. The greywater is used for watering the garden and for the flowers all around the house. The materials used (concrete, bamboo, etc.) are very eco-friendly. Solar panels help produce electricity using solar energy. The fish in the moat produce waste that contributes to the growing of plants.
Central Palm Project by Saffron B.
I gained a newfound appreciation for all of the work that goes into architecture. This module made me excited for the future since I got to learn about many new and upcoming sustainable technologies.
-Class of 2023 Student Saffron B.
My project, “Central Palm,” is located on the golden shores of Kite Beach. The central courtyard is the house’s spine, allowing year-round use due to the shade of the ghaf tree while still maintaining privacy from the outside world. The state-of-the-art Tesla solar roof reduces the owners’ reliance on the grid, even allowing you to sell excess solar energy back to the grid. Water-collecting tech that utilizes local sea breezes alongside sound-absorbing glass, inspired by the Czech Republic Expo pavilion, combines sustainability and modernity, thereby maintaining harmony with the local environment. The house features traditional Islamic design, such as columns, a majlis space for entertaining guests, and a prayer room. This house isn’t the future; this house is now.
For their module, our Mo-Botics participants engaged in a mentoring program with the staff at Unique World Robotics to get the most out of their projects. Students worked in groups to answer the module’s driving question: How can I design and build a robot – inspired by Expo 2020 and the Mobility Pavilion – that performs an action to increase our quality of life?
Through a series of workshops, students gradually increased their programming skills, allowing robots to move in straight lines, stop when faced with an obstacle, and use infrared sensors to follow marked paths.
For one of their excursions, students in the Mo-Botics module saw robots in action at Robo Cafe — a coffee shop run entirely by robots. The students ordered some pastries and coffee, which was all well and good. But what took the cake was how they analyzed how the robots performed their specialized tasks. Among the students’ observations were the guiding paths that the delivery robots were following, and conversations included the ethical implications of robots taking (in this case) baristas’ jobs.
Bido, Noemie, Luiza, and Santiago’s Project
Getting into the field of robotics with little hardware knowledge was both challenging and exciting. I learned that I can find ways to implement existing knowledge into a new field and that there’s always room to lead my own learning experience if I work hard enough. My biggest takeaway is always approaching any new project with a positive, open, and flexible mindset.
-Class of 2023 Student Bido H.
Our project is an autonomous conservational technology system that aims to provide efficiency in agriculture. NutriBot goes around agricultural fields and senses its surrounding environment to measure moisture levels and the type of nutrients in the soil. It then uses this data to evaluate the minimum quantities of water and nutrients necessary to keep the soil healthy and sprays them in the targeted blocks. Implementing this system will make farmers no longer have to apply water or fertilizers across entire fields. NutriBot can conserve up to 40% of water already wasted in agriculture alongside nutrients due to human error and inefficiency.
We ‘Я’ Able Module
Most days this term, one could find the We ‘R’ Able module participants huddled away in the in5 Design Lab.
Outfitted in lab coats, participants in the We ‘R’ Able module explored the human-centered design cycle to develop prototypes of either a smart wearable or a wearable piece of art. They sought to answer the driving question: How can I create a wearable inspired by the Expo 2020 ‘Opportunity’ theme that solves or draws awareness to a contemporary problem?
Through seminars, practical exercises, visits to Expo 2020, and good old-fashioned hard work, students designed and produced a range of prototypes by the end of the module. These theoretical innovations ranged from electromagnetic backpacks to pollution problem-inspired clothing to shoes that charge devices via impact and the wind.
Having the opportunity to create a wearable technology that can potentially be part of the solution for such a pressing issue was something rather exciting to accomplish. I think in-depth research and constant brainstorming helped me make a rather thoughtful project, and I believe I’ve grown a lot.
-Class of 2023 Student Seher Y.
Every 40 seconds, someone ends their life. My smartwatch concept has the primary purpose of monitoring the suicidal behavior of the patient while providing a feature of manually alerting selected people about their suicidal state. The watch monitors physical symptoms (e.g. heart rate, breath irregularities, stress, motion tracking) by using sensors to detect suicide risk objectively and rapidly. Out of sight, easy-to-use, and effective.
Cutting down methane emissions has become an urgent necessity to keep global warming under the limit targeted by the Paris Agreement by the end of this decade. The neckwear artwork I created represents the link between methane and its major global emitter: animal agriculture.
As our global population increases to reach the nine billion mark, what this art piece tries to communicate is that, if humanity decides to continue feeding on animal-based products at the scale it does now, we’ll need to “pull livestock up” – inevitably raising methane emissions and the global temperature together, which puts our whole species in a very delicate position.
Documentary Filmmaking by Niko W. and Dhruv G.
This project taught me the importance of collaboration and using people as a resource. Because we were able to combine our skillsets, we could create a high-quality final product, which I do not think I would have been able to achieve alone. I learned a lot from this team project, including troubleshooting Premiere Pro and maintaining our sense of humor in stressful situations.
-Class of 2023 Student Dhruv G.
As a personal project this term, CM2 students Niko W. and Dhruv G. challenged themselves to develop a short documentary capturing the essence of how modules work at TGS, using the Mo-Botics module as an example. They set out to answer the following driving question: “How can we use documentary filmmaking to capture the essence of PBL at TGS?”
The pair investigated different aspects of documentary filmmaking and combined their prior experience and skillsets to storyboard, plan, and execute the film. They also used a combination of student interviews and shots from module excursions as the film’s backbone.
By dividing roles and putting in a substantial amount of post-production editing, they achieved a high-quality final product which they presented at the THINK Beyond showcase.
Designing my Dream Garden by Luiza
I decided to do this personal project after being inspired by the Future of Food module in Term 1. Even though gardening and biology are not one of my big passions, it was exciting to look at it from a design point of view. Moreover, this project was personally meaningful to me since I wanted to design a garden based on the old garden of my grandparent’s house when I was growing up.
-Class of 2024 Student Luiza B.
For her personal project this term, Luiza focused on the driving question: How can I learn about the processes of planting in order to create an efficient 3D design of my dream garden using geometry properties?
Luiza’s final product is a 3D design of her dream garden based on her grandparent’s yard measurements. It includes plants that are personally relevant to her, her family, and culturally relevant to Brazil.
Each term at THINK Global School culminates with a project-based learning showcase, where students have an opportunity to share their experiences in front of their peers and members of the public.
THINK Beyond Talks
This term, in addition to presenting their final projects in a booth setting, CM2 students had the option to prepare a Ted-style talk based on a variety of topics related to our community and education, including:
- What is TGS?
- Project-based learning
- The benefits of the Changemaker Curriculum
- Service-learning in education
These presentations were covered under the overall theme, THINK Beyond. Talks included:
- Class of 2022 Student Alex presented on the future of education, focusing on how she can now better assess herself academically after attending TGS.
- Class of 2022 Student Noemi presented on the concept of rethinking assessments, focusing on the student-mentor relationship and the processes of critical thinking, analysis, communication and coordination, negotiating, and creativity.
- Class of 2024 Student Raf presented on the importance of collaboration and real-world experiences in education, explaining the importance of project-based learning and how gaining information from others and the world around you is crucial.
- Class of 2023 Student Sara presented on the topic of “How can service learning change Dubai?”. She discussed what students gain from service-learning, including becoming an active member of society, remembering where you come from, learning our responsibility towards community, and values such as empathy, cultural awareness, and humanity.
- Class of 2023 Student Aarushi wrapped things up with a presentation on curriculum, poising the question: “What comes to mind when you think of the word curriculum?” The talk focused on THINK Global School’s embrace of the “Don’t teach me what to think, teach me how to think” mantra and the principles of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This was held in comparison to more traditional schools, which still consist of a teacher lecturing students from the front of a classroom.
Where Next for CM2?
For Term 3, our CM2 students are headed to Oaxaca, Mexico. During their time in Oaxaca, they’ll learn firsthand about Zapotec culture and community by engaging in the following project-based learning modules:
- VRchaeology: How can I preserve a part of Oaxaca’s ancient history and give Zapotec history a new life in the form of VR experiences?
- Syncretic Sculptures: How can I model a clay sculpture inspired by Mexican Religious Syncretism to represent a fusion of my personal beliefs and values?
- Speed Oaxaca: How can I use video to present my investigations (SPEED factors) into the lives of the Zapotec people of Oaxaca?
Visit our Instagram to see regular updates from our CM2 cohort’s term as well as from our CM1 cohort.