Design Thinking: From Planning to Creation to Reflection to Improvement

The KS and 3B learning buddies have been concentrating on being design thinkers throughout this year. Design thinkers plan, create, reflect, and improve. The improvement may occur during the design cycle, or it might occur after the cycle, when a new design might be inspired or planned. The learning is continuous. Currently the students are at different stages in their design thinking, with designs ranging from books to pop-up cards, bird houses to pencil holders. We hope you enjoy this link to the Design Thinking with KS and 3B Flickr album, where you can view a few photos from our learning or toggle your own slideshow if desired.

Learning Through Service

This week we were able to continue our learning through service with the America Yama Garden Academy. We discovered that each person learns different things about themselves when they serve. Some of us have younger brothers and sisters; some of us don’t. Some of us speak Japanese; some of us don’t. All of these unique parts of us mean that we learn different things when we serve and interact with others.






Each student reflected on their service learning and what it meant to them with these thoughts:

I learned I should be kind to kindergarteners. W.D.

I feel a little bit sad because I can not see them again. I learned that learning Japanese is important in Japan. Logan

It was OK when they left because It is hard to play with little kids. I learned playing with sand together was easier than talking. Junsei

I learned that I felt happy because we did the tunnel, and I like seeing the kids go underneath.  Hamish

It was hard to be a risk taker. I only speak English everyday so speaking Japanese is hard. I also learned that some people have to be a translator. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard. L.J.

I felt kind of sad because I won’t see them again. I learned that I need to be more of a risk taker and I need to play more with little kids. Paula

I felt better by helping Logan digging that hole. I learned it is easier to play with third graders more than kindergarteners, especially ones that speak Japanese because I don’t speak Japanese. Alex

I learned that some people have different opinions because I don’t like sandbox and I’m a girl, but they liked sandbox and they are girls, and I didn’t think they would choose that. Thanina

I learned that the boy was interested in searching for the marbles. Carolina

I learned that helping others is important. I think they had a good time and I am a little bit sad because I will never see them again, but I’m also happy because they are going to grade one. Jingyi

I learned how to get marbles out of the dirt from the drain because some people let the marbles drop in there and the girls got them out. Lara

I learned that caring for little kids is hard. Kane

I learned that it is a bit different when I play because they are Japanese. V. S.

I learned that it is hard to play with people that speak Japanese when I know only a little. Troy




The ICJC and How We Express Ourselves

YIS students are very fortunate to have their education enhanced by the many offerings of the ICJC – The International Center for Japanese Culture, directed by Dr. Joseph Amato. This year Grade 3 has been able to learn about a variety of expressive Japanese arts – the way of tea, obento arrangement, Japanese dance, and shodo (Japanese calligraphy). Each of these experiences have helped us to further our understanding of “How We Express Ourselves” through the concepts of appreciation, expression, and creativity.

A few 3B reflections:


H.C. I appreciate that adults were helping us with the obento.


P.J. I liked the Japanese dance because it was fun to learn it and see how to move. It was fun to do it and now I can teach my friends who don’t know it.

W.D. I liked the shodo and how to write the kanji.


J. R. I liked making the obento, making a round pig and an oval chicken. I never did this before.

T.G. (about the obento) I got to create and then eat! I got to be creative by putting on the pig ears.

C.M.R. I liked when we did the mannequin challenge at the tea ceremony. I didn’t really like the tea, because I don’t usually drink tea, so I don’t know the taste.

Please enjoy the students’ Japanese dance with Fujima-sensei as well as the photos of a few creative obentos

Appreciating Japanese Dance from MsBrownsClass on Vimeo.

Reflecting on Our Musical Performance and Metacognition

Ensemble of 5 from MsBrownsClass on Vimeo.

Reflecting is a tool that students at YIS know very well. It is something we do – we reflect.

Our reflections might be about the “What” of our learning – “What did you learn?” as well as the “How” of our learning – “How did you do that?” “What was going on when you were learning that?” “What helped you learn?”

In a nutshell, the “how” of our learning is metacognition. It’s a big word, but it is an important one for deep learning.

With metacognition in mind, the students recently reflected on their performance practice for Music. At the time of the practice, Ms. Mason was away, so I was able to see the many interactions and accommodations that each music group was incorporating as they were learning how to manage and perfect the performance part of their Time Bucket composition of sound.

After the practice, students reflected upon what helped them when they were learning their parts for their music performance:

PJ: It helped me when I was sharing my ideas with my friends and some of my ideas were not in the sounds, and sometimes they used more of mine. and sometimes they used less.

LK – I listened to my team to work together to get ideas to make the performance better.

HC – I learned my part and then I helped my friends to learn their part and then we did the performance and we got everything right. But before the performance, we practiced so many times and we never got it right.

Kane – I know that if you speak about only one thing a long time, you just waste all the other things and won’t get finished in time.

CMR – I learned that its better to work outside because inside is really noisy, especially when there are no big kids outside.

I learned that if you don’t cooperate so much with your team, you might not get stuff done so easily. If you’re like helping your team and they can’t do it right, you need a lot of practice so they can do it right. You need a lot of practice and patience.

WD-  -Hamish said we are going to put the names on the paper, then when we are playing we can look at the paper and then we will learn whose turn it is.

Logan – I learned that we have to have teamwork, if we don’t have teamwork then we will stop the show.

Jingyi – Like, I learned from mistakes because the first time each person have/has only one instrument and its too boring, and then we add and change and change and finally we have the right one.

TM – I learned you can’t have two jobs at a time because if you are first in the list and you are pointing, then it is harder and your group will be upset  . That’s all.

AY: I learned that you have to be open minded because  sometimes your partner is absent and you have to get a new partner. If you don’t be open minded other people have good ideas so you will get an argument.

Junsei – I learned people pointing at the time buckets is helpful.
Troy – I learned my part when Hamish wrote down the names so that I know when it is my turn or not. (Troy originally said: – but Troy did not listen to his team – I think you should listen to your team so if they say something you have to listen to them.)

If you are interested in more information about metacognition and the importance of reflection, you may want to peruse any of the following links. There is more and more evidence that reflecting on something we do is very important for strong learning.

From The Atlantic:

From Harvard Business School Journal:
A definition of metacognition with a checklist of metacognition skills:

Ensemble of 4 from MsBrownsClass on Vimeo.

Ensemble of 2 from MsBrownsClass on Vimeo.

Ensemble of 2 – one member absent from MsBrownsClass on Vimeo.

Ensemble of 3 from MsBrownsClass on Vimeo.

Caring YIS

In the last month the students have extended their kindness and help in so many ways, learning as they try new experiences with younger students as well as extending to the outside community – reading with their KS buddies, playing games with their service learning America-yama Garden buddies, adding cheer to the Van der Poel Christmas Party for two orphanages with their Christmas cards and Gingerbread houses (which also went to a home for the elderly and the Kunmoin School for the Blind),  supporting the 5th grade service learning initiatives of Fresh Fruit Friday and the Giving Tree for the homeless and the seafarers.

A few of the 3B students wanted to have a blog post that shared some of their photos of their gingerbread houses as well as their Christmas cards and to share some feelings about all of these service learning projects. You can see more gingerbread house photos on last week’s 3N blogA big thank you goes out to the class moms for their help in organizing and preparing the items for the gingerbread houses.

I was happy to help the orphans and give them the gingerbread house – Lara

I enjoyed playing with the Japanese kindergarten, the card game. I enjoyed it because they learned English about those things. – Carolina

It was fun because we’re making the cards for orphans. – Paula

I like having Maker Space with my KS buddy. – William

I liked making the gingerbread houses because its important to give things to people so that they don’t get more poor. – Thanina

I liked drawing the Christmas card because it is important to make other people happy. – Jingyi

I like making Christmas cards because I like helping people. – Seonyul

I like making the gingerbread house because I want to help the blind people. – Lindsey

I like helping all of the people we help. – Valmik

Gingerbread Houses and Cards for Others