Contextual Learning- the fifth year

Students in Middle School have their first CL ( Contextual Learning) Day of the year tomorrow.

Contextual Learning is a project-based educational program that uses direct experiences to teach early adolescents about themselves and their place in the world.

Tomorrow’s  theme is team-building.  The Grade 6 students will have their first exposure day and learn about the ongoing projects that CIS Middle School students are involved in on campus.  The Grade 7 & 8 teams will be off campus hiking and team building near Nandi Hills.  India Hikes will lead the Grade 8 group to challenge themselves trekking for the day.  Grade 7 will experience Discovery Village taking part in Zorbing, High Ropes, Ziplining, and other challenge activities.


Grade 7 On Site Students climb at Rain Forest Retreat in June 2017.


Contextual Learning is a CIS experiential learning experience initiated, developed, and implemented by Nannette Bertschy that begins with five school days per year. These are the planning and preparation days.  Students learn and experience a non-traditional classroom setting.  Each day has a theme.  Many have excursions out into Bangalore or guests coming to share on campus.  There are no subject classes on Contextual Learning days.  There are no formal assessments.  Students grade themselves according to a rubric.  Teachers provide formative feedback through the day and year.  Each student has different challenges and different strengths.  Contextual Learning gives students and teachers time to learn about each other and their community.


The Discovery Portion happens for 3 weeks, and the last week of the school year is our Reflection week culminating in a “Share Day”.

There is a theme for each year and teachers use the PBL model to plan projects that engage and excite our students.

6th GRADE                     SELF AWARENESS
Self-awareness is not brought through a routine but through change. It is when faced with the unknown that the CL students learn a bit more about who they truly are.

Understanding develops when we truly appreciate another’s point of view. This deep immersion in a larger community broadens the students’ capacity for acceptance and shows the intertwined relationship between family, culture, religion and government.

Compassion requires empathy, and empathy is best established by making connections. These links are initiated by practical projects that help other people, animals, and our planet.

Student choice is an important part of Contextual Learning. During the year, the students are presented with choices and sign-up for projects that fit their own interests. Students independently explore their interests, sustain curiosity and creatively express understanding. During the Discovery program, students (and their families) choose to attend an On Campus or an On Site program. The On Site programme is a week of travel throughout Southern India for Grade 6 and 3 weeks of experiential learning for Grade 7 & 8.  Grade 7 students remain in South India, while Grade 8 students travel to Northern India.


Grade 7 On Campus Students experience an Escape Room and then create their own Break Out Room in May 2017.

During Contextual Learning, students blend traditional reflections and journaling on pen and paper with blogging, reporting, documenting, and film making.  Student leaders are developed and organizational skills are honed.  Students reflect on their essential questions and attempt to connect their experience to their place in our community. Contextual Learning provides a lot of service learning projects and allows students to work with the community to learn from each other.


Along with team building, tomorrow’s ongoing projects exploration with the Grade 6 students includes  The Organic Garden, Composting, Bees, and Solar Energy.  Most of these are projects have been started by the CL students in past years, and Middle School students will continue to care and develop these ongoing projects again this year.

Check out our Contextual Learning blog updated regularly by the students.  Do students at your school participate in “Parachute”, “FedEx”, “Off-timetable”, “Week without Walls”, and/or experiential learning?   Is learning initiated before and extended after the event?  How is planning conducted?

Over the course of this year, I will attempt to document our CL journey on this blog. Please do share your thoughts.




iPads-Back to the Future


CIS is beginning its 7th school year of learning with iPads. Only this year, did we realize that we didn’t have a technology vision.  We have been evolving constantly- moving from DropBox to Google Drive to iTunes U.  We have been tethered to our projector and then India got Apple TVs.  We were assured that certain online service would come onto iPads sooner than they did.  We have had 2 years of MAP testing on iPads. We are beginning our 4th year of all grade 6-12 teachers building iTunes U courses for all subjects. iTunes U replaces our plan books and unit plans.

We even got rid of all the Windows desktops from all teachers’ classrooms and replaced them with Mac Minis.  We kept learning and kept adapting.  We created an iPad User Agreement.  We host iPad Bootcamps. We studied the SAMR model, then TPACK, and then the decided to concentrate on “The 4Cs”.

This year we begin with a re-boot.  We are going to make sure that all the students that have jumped on the CIS iPad train are ready to create efficiently, to annotate work appropriately, to enhance the teaching and learning experience, and most of all, to be excited by the easy use of the iPad in helping our students learn. We have decided that the best way to do this is to differentiate our Technology Workshops to allow experienced iPad users to develop ideas differently than those who have used them for teaching for a shorter period of time.

CIS’s Technology Vision 

Canadian International School strives to prepare students to act with INTEGRITY, CARE, and RESPECT in an increasingly digital world. Our students will be able to use technology to INSPIRE  others and to create a JOY of learning and sharing with our community.

Our technology vision support CIS’s vision and mission. It incorporates our core values of Joy, (Joy of connecting with our school, our community and the world around us) and Inspiration (Inspiring to be the change),  Integrity (Integrity in academics, relationships, and in decision making), Caring (Act with empathy and kindness towards each other and the changing World around us), and Respect (Respect for individuality, community, diversity, and for our environment).

Our Digital Citizenship Vision

Canadian International School strives to prepare students for an ever-changing global community by developing lifelong skills including digital citizenship. At CIS we encourage our students from K-12 to safely, ethically and consciously explore, create and communicate in a 1:1 environment so that every student at CIS will become good decision makers and consider their digital footprint from a personal and community perspective.  As knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens our students will be able to harness the learning potential of an increasingly connected world and lead happy and successful lives.

Many CIS teachers are Common Sense Media Educators and PK-12 students do experience the complete curriculum throughout their learning experience at CIS.

These vision statements drive decision making at CIS.  

We are lucky. Our students are lucky.

Please check out this video created last year during Contextual Learning on Technology Day.

I can’t wait to see the students back at Day 1 on Friday.