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“The X”: The Primary Years Exhibition Turns Students into “Xperts”

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On April 26, 2016, Mackintosh Academy Littleton 6th graders presented their International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program Exhibition projects to parents, teachers, faculty, staff, and students.  Known around campus as “The X,” the Exhibition is the culmination of the Primary Years Program (PYP) – the crowning moment when students become “Xperts” and make the transition from the primary to middle school years.

Each year, the Exhibition students are responsible for taking an active part in their learning process by developing the theme around which the X revolves.  This year’s students chose the transdisciplinary theme “Humans Use Robotics to Balance Work and Play.” Throughout the process, students put into action the IB learner profiles of inquirer, thinker, principled, open-minded, caring, and risk-takers.

Sharon Muench, Curriculum Coordinator and 5/6 teachers Joe Pausback and Nancy Muhich, along with a team of faculty mentors, guided the students through their inquiry and collaboration. The mentor relationships helped students learn additional real-world skills of responsibility, accountability, and professionalism as they had to arrange and keep meetings weekly with these adults.

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For several weeks, these students researched, met with their mentors, collaborated with faculty, and wrote their first in-depth research paper.  Topics included:
• Prosthetic Limbs
• Mars Rovers
• Smart Home Technology
• Nanotechnology
• Military Robotics
• Robotics in Space
• Forensic Technology

Another key element of The X is putting ideas into action. This year’s students had the unique opportunity to participate in a competition, hosted by RAFT (Research Area for Teaching) Colorado and the Denver Broncos, to develop a “cardboard quarterback” throwing arm. Two teams of students worked to develop their own designs using cardboard and a variety of salvaged and recycled materials. Team Narwhal and Team Meh, with the help of some dedicated parent volunteers, both competed and their final scores differed by only one point. Team Meh took the title with a record-setting 22 foot 9 inch throw!

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The X takes students to a deeper level of inquiry and a complexity of thinking that signals their readiness to move into the even more complex middle years curriculum. While the X can be challenging, students agree that the hard work is worth it in the end and they move into middle school confident and well-prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.