Preparing students as future-thinking innovators

Preparing students as future-thinking innovators

[Photograph by Faye Yang] Branksome Hall Asia scooped the prestigious International School Award for 2020 for its ‘initiatives to support students as future-thinking innovators’. We caught up with them to find out more. Branksome Hall Asia’s award-winning initiative Branksome Hall Asia is proud to be...


[Photograph by Faye Yang]

Branksome Hall Asia scooped the prestigious International School Award for 2020 for its ‘initiatives to support students as future-thinking innovators’. We caught up with them to find out more.

Branksome Hall Asia’s award-winning initiative

Branksome Hall Asia is proud to be recognised for its Innovative Systems Design Curriculum, a programme that spans across grades to help students hone their technology skills while working with local and international agencies to develop sustainable solutions to today’s environmental and economic problems.

This award was granted by ISC Research and supported by Pearson and especially recognised the Branksome Hall Exchange (BHX), an annual exchange programme between the two sister schools of Branksome Hall, both IB world schools and international schools for girls.The school was awarded the prestigious International School Award for 2020 in January this year for its “initiatives to support students as future-thinking innovators.”

Branksome Hall Exchange students collaborate to explore alternative energy sources

The BHX programme engages students in an interdisciplinary study of alternate energy possibilities. Over 100 Branksome Hall Asia students in Jeju, South Korea, and a similar number of pupils from Branksome Hall in Toronto, Canada are involved in this life-altering international exchange programme every year.

While in Jeju, students collaborate to understand the concept of a carbon-free community and the efficacy of using wind power as an alternate source of energy. In support of the initiatives on Jeju Island to become carbon-free by 2030, our students work closely with experts in government, technology, and science, to develop and enhance wind turbine designs that could be effectively employed on the island.  As a truly global team of inquirers, our students successfully navigate this real-world challenge, learning about cultural differences and each other along the way.

Working with engineering experts to develop new initiatives

Through this project, students learn from experts at the Institute of Wind Engineering at Jeju National University and from engineers on Gapa-do island where many new initiatives are already being tested.

At the school, students use a giant wind tunnel testing chamber and extensive online resources, as they engage with their teachers and our local community together to create and enhance solutions around the shared goal of producing an optimal wind turbine design.

This initiative evolved from the need to develop student understanding of the environmental, social, and economic impact of their decisions and actions. BHX is one of many interdisciplinary projects embedded in the curricular programme at Branksome Hall Asia and a feature of our full Innovative Systems Design curriculum in which students, from grades 4 to 10 participate.

Through this programme, students discuss what 21st century skills they will need, as well as the roles they wish to have in society as global citizens, empowered to shape a better world. Our students want to be prepared to be true change-makers in their communities, with the flexibility to choose to be politicians, designers, engineers, scientists, or artists. As a result, we have developed initiatives that provide students with varied opportunities to synthesise their knowledge across multiple domains.

Central to all of our innovation initiatives is an exploration of the concept of Triple Bottom Line (TBL). This concept frames the costs and benefits of the students’ solution in terms of social, environmental, and economic influences. The focus is not just to have students develop a technical solution to solve a problem but to understand the impact it has on individuals and communities.

Making sustainable systems design an integral part of the curriculum

Branksome Hall Asia’s series of Sustainable Systems Design Units run through the Junior School (IB PYP), Middle School (IB MYP) and Senior School (IB DP) programmes. Student skills such as research, time management, creativity, and problem solving, and inquiry -synthesising knowledge from different areas and applying it to a new context – are embedded and scaffolded in each unit as are connections to the science, design and mathematics curricula at the school.

All students have access to the on-campus Design Lab and use 3D printers, laser cutters and other hardware to develop their solutions. Technology plays a significant role with students using CAD/CAM software to design their turbines, Logger Pro and sensors to gather data. Field trips, interviews and presentations are regular features of our curricular program as well. For students these units are often defining moments in their journey as learners, where they learn about culture, language, and how best to engage in meaningful collaboration and inquiry with their peers and others.

See the exchange students in action!

This video from the 2017 exchange programme highlights the different aspects of the BHX IDU and features a variety of field trips, inquiry, comments and reflections by students and teachers. 

This video from the 2018 exchange programme shows highly engaged students collaborating on their designs, discussing iterations, testing iterations in mini wind tunnel test chambers, and learning how to measure the power output.

This BHX website is our primary resource including information on the conceptual understandings, schedule, technologies and inquiry cycle. We found a website was an ideal platform to consolidate and share resources for students, teachers, and support staff, as it is mobile-viewable while learning taking place inside and outside the classroom, and in different locations around the campus and the island. This resource has been a key element that is shared with other schools and interested people from around the world.

More about Branksome Hall Asia

Branksome Hall Asia was founded in 2012 as an International School for Girls in Jeju Island, South Korea. It is the only sister school of Branksome Hall, a well-established independent girls’ school in Toronto.

We are an International Baccalaureate World School that offers the academically rigorous and challenging Diploma, Middle Years, and Primary Years Programs. We are committed to girls’ empowerment and helping students to shape a better world. Our program is focused on reinforcing the development of independence and leadership skills. We offer an extensive student leadership program and a large number of student-led initiatives to ensure that our learners have every opportunity to build their confidence and voice.

Branksome Hall Asia has a full International Merit Scholarship programme – you can find more information and apply here.

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