Powering up the Exhibition

We just returned from an overnight trip to the Creativity Center of Arts in Malindi, Mombasa. The previous 5 years (in Grade 5) students have been going to Tsavo National Park to learn about wildlife and sustainability. Being a new team member it was time to invigorate this trip and connect it to the Exhibition – time to power it up! Promoting and advocating change was difficult. Parents were confused and annoyed that their child would not be going to Tsavo. This line of thinking is quite dangerous. It actually reveals a little bit of the school culture and tradition that has lingered around here… but, I won’t dwell on that. While we were met with a lot of resistance, there was also some strong support coming from the other camp of parents who could see what we were trying to do. The other parents just needed to be educated, they needed to see the value in changing. In the end, we were able to make changes and it is our hope that this change remains till something better or more fitting can be offered. That is the main reason for change, right?!

The past week has been buzzing. We bonded. We listened to each other. We shared stories and observed students playing with ideas, tapping into their creativity and allowing their imagination to flow. In short, we saw another side that we would not have seen, unless we as teachers stayed true and were bold enough in pushing what we believed in.

So how did we organize and plan for this and then bring it back to the Exhibition?

Transdisciplinary Theme: how we express ourselves

We offered 6 different creative/expressive experiences. This is an example of Team 1. The other 6 Teams simply rotated through each experience.


The trip was balanced between creativity, The Exhibition (setting the scene) and bonding with one another though meaningful downtime.

Tuesday 4th of March

Time to relax and feel the space. We had one Exhibition session.

Wednesday 5th of March

We ran 3 art sessions and had 2 Exhibition Sessions. 3 Hours of downtime.

Thursday 6th of March

We ran 3 art sessions and had 2 Exhibition Sessions. 3 Hours of downtime. Honored student work in the gallery.

Friday 7th of March

We ran one session on pulling the pieces together.

I would be happy to email the full schedule to anyone that is interested.

Why did this work so well?

We gave students the room to explore, seek, observe, and just be. We were surrounded by nature and creative art pieces that adorned the resort from the moment you stepped inside to the very rooms you slept in. We were in it.

What did we achieve as a result of immersing kids in it?

Real artists!

I am confident in saying that ‘most’ of the kids have shifted in terms of how they see themselves as artists and as people.

It is like they have come back as different people. Ready to learn. And hungry to experiment with their ideas. We have introduced a book called the X-pand book. Essentially, it is a sketch book where they can draw, sketch and conceptualize their ideas.

During the sessions we talked about and listened to each other. We took them through a real process to play around with ideas and think about their convictions. Their convictions about what they believe, what is important to them and of the world around them and what they really care about.

It is much more powerful to add photos to illustrate this….. so here goes.


The students are writing down their experiences, then their reactions to those experiences, then thinking about which one mostly inspires them to take action and then the best way to express it.


The power of bringing in experts. Armando Tanzini is a real artist. It is his resort and he opened it up to us to use. He inspired and taught the students so much about art, in a way that we could not of done.


Students were thinking about what mattered to them and what they did during that day. This was very powerful.


Students started to defend and challenge each other on what matters to them. This really personalized their thinking as they had to communicate with one another.


Armando honored their work like real artists. he removed his own work from the gallery and put the students’ work in there. It was like the staging of the Exhibition and we hadn’t even started.

The point I am trying to bring out is that real learning is messy and sometimes you have to fight for it. We could have easily done the same trip from the year before, instead we demanded different. We kept the child at the center and in the spotlight of real teaching and learning. When things get hard whether that be from parents, teachers even administration stay with it. That is putting the kids first. That is the type of school I want to work in and be part of.

Does anyone want to share how they approach the PYP Exhibition?


  1. Ann

    This trip was an amazing experience for these children because they were exposed to and surrounded by such unique and creative art. Mombasa does not lend itself to artsy experiences very often so I though White Elephant was the perfect venue to allow the kids the time and space to look at, think about and discuss art. The majority of the students left this trip with a solid understanding of what will be expected of them for the exhibition. Chad did an incredible job guiding the students to delve into and discover their convictions during both the formal and informal presentations to the students throughout the trip. The group sizes and rotations worked really well and 90 minute blocks were perfect. Some session leaders were better than others but all of them gave students the opportunity to explore and experiment with different mediums regarding expression and art. Sharing ‘what good looks like’ encouraged kids to step up their game and then share with us their thoughts and understandings. In order to ignite passion in others you need to exhibit passion yourself and Chad was a model of ‘what great looks like’ on this trip. I’m lucky, I get to teach alongside him every day.

    • concentricthinking

      Thanks Ann! A good thing you were there to guide students as well. Coming back to school after this experience felt very different. There was a strong sense of pride and accomplishment that each student had shifted in their thinking on many levels. I am going to ask a few students to write a comment to this blog post to share their insights too. Let’s see how they respond to this challenge. As I always say, kids say it best.

  2. Pingback: Powering up the Exhibition | concentricthinking
  3. concentricthinking

    Some student responses: (not edited, as written by some of the students)

    This retreat was not just one, it was more than that. I think this because it has shifted my knowledge a lot and has helped me find the path of my exhibition journey.

    The below shows how:
    – I really engaged with the talks that Mr Chad used to give us at night. Whenever he was talking I was always connecting with him and real life experience. An example is when he was talking about knowing our conviction with your heart. At that moment I thought of garbage dump and the experiences I had with this matter. In these experiences I was furious and melancholic.

    – In the music, dance and singing group Mr Jeff was talking about singers communicating messages while singing in an indirect way. I always hear a song and then state whether it is nice or not. I never engage with it. Would any song be communicating a message related to my conviction? There must be. Through this period I learnt that no matter what art you do it always communicates a message. This is connected to my exhibition because it doesn’t mean that just because I am doing garbage dump, I have to express myself with photography. I can express myself in which ever way suits me best.

    -My most favourite time was when we were with Armando Tanzini. We learnt how to combine creativity and put it all together in one painting. I loved this period because we were free to express ourselves in any way we want. That period has helped me expand on my creativity for the exhibition with art.

    – In photography I learnt how to take better shots from different angles. This will help me in my exhibition because when I go to Mombasa tip to take photos of garbage and interview people, I will need these skills.

    During this trip I have gained a lot of knowledge and this is good because ” Knowledge is Power and is the key to Success”. Saloni

    The Exhibition retreat/trip to Malindi was, of course, more than a normal trip, for many reasons.Yes, because it was an overnight trip, and it was really fun, but, it was also in educational ways. There were very many things I learnt, for life, like tools, etc., but what I really connected with and learned, related to the Exhibition, is different forms of art and how to do them/the way to do them (e.g. woodwork- how to carve and create wooden objects). I learnt, and got a new perspective and aspect, from everything, even our paintings. This has truly had an effect and experience to me like no other, in art, creativity, learning, peacefulness, having fun and enjoying/playing, and most different and unique of all, maturity. It taught me not to make a joke about it with my friends and giggle, and ruin the moment, but to look at it in a different way, to see it as art and something beyond the picture/sculpture.

    I have learnt too much more than I was hoping for in the trip that now my brain is flowing and bursting out and reaching my hands, which are typing all this down! I really liked this post as I could share my experience and knowledge with others. I hope you guys had fun, and had many experiences, too! Rahul

    When we went to the Malindi trip, it was more than a trip for me because I really got to know the other class and I really engaged in the things that I was doing. In Malindi I learnt how to express myself in different ways for example doing a mime, painting, clay modeling e.t.c. The workshops that we did in Malindi shifted my thinking because it made me realize that nobody is perfect in art and that also links to my conviction, don’t compare your work to other people’s work. That reminds me when we put all our paintings up on the wall and I was a little nervous because when I saw what the others did, it made me feel like to find a chair and sink in it. That is when I realized nobody is perfect. Sarah C

    The Malindi trip was not just any old trip because we got to learn how some people we didn’t recognize as friends started to become some of our friends and you can learn from them.

    We all got inspired by different things in the Malindi trip some of you were inspired by the wood and metal work or some others might have been inspired by Armando Tanzini.

    But the things that really inspired me were…..

    1. Armando Tanzini

    What inspired you? How did it inspire you? What relations did you make? Adam

    When we went on the Malindi trip I learnt how to express myself in many different ways like sketching,painting photography and many others. But what I really found was myself, what makes me itch and what matters to me. This trip shifted my thinking a lot because I used to think that what made me itch was loneliness now I know that nature really makes me itch. Zeana

    When we went to Malindi I felt relaxed because, there are no parents bossing you around. I really benefited from every session,but mostly wood work because I have never built stuff out of wood.I was so inspired by Armando Tanzini because he was such a great artist and quite energetic because for an old man, because there was time in the art gallery where he drew sketches for almost all of us and he was not tired ,second is that he carried Kidhr.

    This trip made learnt what I was in awe of ,because before, I really didn’t come with the idea of what I am in awe of. I am in awe of the moon appearing during the day. Nawaf

    The Malindi trip was an amazing trip for me and I was really inspired with Armando Tanzini. His creativity with wood work and of course the Paintings being put in the art gallery.Armandos inspiration has led me to really think and focus on my exhibition project road safety. If he can do it then so can we.

    The exhibition retreat was a learning process for us to come and implement in our focus towards the exhibition. This exhibition will be one of a kind if we take our inspiration to heart and put it forward through art and Mr. Chad guiding us. Ruby

    During the Malindi trip I learnt how to express my self any way. Sketching, Wood work, Music, dance and singing, Photography, Painting, etc. I want to for my Exhibition. My conviction is moving. And I want to use to expess my feeling through the painting (art). So I can based on experience that I learnt through the Malindi trip. I was in awe and inspired of Armando Tanzini’s work. I thought that is thrue art. That art peaces is soulful. When I painting I just watch (copy) and paint. So they don’t have a meaning of that art pieces. So just I can explain which picture is this, and I can’t explan what this picture showing in detail.

    When he (Mr Amando) drawing what he is thinking about? Why in White Elephant there is many art peaces? I think because he likes art. But I think there is deep reason. Riko

    During the trip I learnt how to express myself in any way I can and anywhere I am for example in the trip I learnt to express myself through:

    1. Sketching
    2.Wood metal work
    3.Clay sculpting
    4.Music, Dance, Singing
    5.Sand sculpting
    6.Armandos art Africa paintings
    I was in awe of what inspired him to become a painter, Who inspired me, And who taught him. My questions are:

    1.What inspired him to become a painter?
    2.Who inspired him to paint?
    3.Who taught him how to paint?
    4.How was he inspired?
    5. What emotions and feelings came to him when he did these art pieces? Nicole

    I learnt that you can express yourself in anyway. For Example:
    2.Wood/Metal Workshop
    3.Clay sculpting
    4.Music,Dance and singing
    And so on and so forth.I got inspired by Armando Tanzini and his paintings but,some of the sculptures and paintings were a bit inappropriate for us but,anyway I had a good time
    and I learnt something from it.
    >What made him(Armando Tanzini) do it?
    >What was in his mind when he was doing these art pieces?
    >What emotions came to him when he was doing these art pieces?
    >Why did he do this?
    >How was he inspired?
    >Who was he inspired by? Fatma

    The Exhibition retreat was more then just a trip because I got shifted by every workshop. I learnt the arts of clay sculpting, woodwork, and painting. I really got shifted by Armando Tanzini because his art pieces really showed a lot of emotion. Even though they showed inappropriate things, I thought ‘What was he feeling when he was making these art pieces?’.

    The gallery showed me what the exhibition would be like. It was basically what we would do in the exhibition. Our art piece with our X Book and Xpand book and information in our heads. Jai

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