An amazing time of the year is here for the international family communities in Latvia. At the International School of Riga (ISR), Grade 5 students have worked diligently on their Exhibition projects with guidance from experts in the local community. 

The Exhibition (PYPX) marks the transition between the Primary Years Program (PYP) and Middle Years Program. 

PYPX is the end of year showcase of projects done by students based on topics they are passionate about, encapsulating their learning through the years of study in PYP. 

Their PYPX work highlights students’ autonomy and ability to choose and undertake research and field work aligned with their interests, tying together all the knowledge gained by the various Central Ideas and Units of Inquiry that they’ve mastered over the study program.

2023 to 2024’s ISR PYPX Latvian Community Experts and Groups

This year, ISR’s Grade 5 students worked in groups on topics based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) of:

  • Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Reduced Inequalities
  • Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Life on Land
  • Life Below Water

Read on to find out more about the different Latvian organisations and community members that have collaborated with ISR’s Grade 5 class to share their knowledge and experience in contributing to these UN SDGs. 

In the final section of this post, learn about the different student groups’ stands and see how they tied together art and music to express their learning during PYPX. 

Hope for Children (Cerība bērniem)

Director Helen of Hope For Children visited the Grade 5 class to talk about how their organization works to reduce inequalities, protect children, and provide basic needs to families struggling with poverty in Latvia. 

Students learned about how people in a community can work together to help reduce inequalities and provide support for those struggling with financial difficulties. 

What surprised the children the most was how shoes are the most difficult item to get for struggling families in Riga, and how food can be scarce for those who live near them. 

Overall, Helen emphasised how families—however well meaning—can still find themselves in different but difficult situations. The impact of a single good act or several small good acts from community members can change a life, or several, and this inspired students of Grade 5 to act. 

Students in the Reduced Inequalities group created a food donation drive that ended on May 10. Items gathered were donated to the charity by the students with help from Mary Levocz (Teacher) and Cloe Montoya (Support Teacher). 

The donation drive is aligned with the students Exhibition as a form of action showing their involvement in the local community. 

By offering an easy option for people to donate non-perishable food, and taking up the responsibility of collecting, organising, and transporting the items, the students managed to achieve their action goal of providing food relief to in-need local Latvian families. 

If you’d like to learn more about Hope for Children and the work they do for families and children in Riga, visit their website.

Latvian Red Cross

Olha from the Red Cross organisation in Latvia visited the classroom to talk about the work done locally and internationally to support people with different areas. 

Students got to learn about the services and actions done by the Red Cross, such as helping protect people from discrimination and enabling others to live more safely in 190 countries over the past 105 years.

It may come as a surprise to many in Latvia who may not be involved in volunteering or social work, but the Red Cross does a lot more than blood donations. 

Working in first aid, educating people on disaster situation response, providing social and health support, and offering tracing services for families who have gone missing are some of the things the group organises in Latvia.

Other projects done by the Latvian Red Cross involve projects around providing relief and aid to those in cities and the countryside, establishing access to food and shelter, and mental health services. 

Shelters such as Day Care centres, Functional Disabilities centres, and night shelters for those in need are managed and run by the organisation across the country.

To focus on social support and reducing inequalities, students were able to ask questions about the different types of discrimination, what type of help children can receive, and what common issues are found. 

Olha answered all questions, specifying reasons and providing examples on why and how people, or children, find themselves in one of their shelters. After the discussion, Olha taught the students a breathing exercise used to keep calm when in situations of stress.

Click here if you’d like to learn more about the Latvian Red Cross.

Riga Mezi and Koksirlabs

Kristaps Ceplis, from Koksirlabs, and Riga Mezi teamed up to provide an excursion to educate the Grade 5 students about Latvian forests and nature. Member of the Board at “Zaļās mājas”, Kristaps has been involved in the Latvian forest industry for many years, prior to that he had worked in Canada.

Originally having met the students at an excursion earlier in the year, Kristaps had introduced the students to the importance of the forest for Latvia and many more subjects over the tour and workshop, such as:

  • the various types of trees found locally in Latvia and tree nurseries
  • the purposes and uses of different trees and parts of a single tree
  • fire safety and health safety connected with building materials used in houses
  • the various wood products and their usage in international relations and trading 
    • wood-based ingredients from Latvia used in logistics and transportation
    • wooden speakers made in Latvia used for concerts for popular US celebrities
    • wood from Latvia used in beauty products all the way to “plastic” products
    • the connection between wood and the atmosphere (O2 and Co2)
  • science experiments using Latvian wood for thermal regulation for space rockets

The workshop was intense and beneficial to understanding the world around students. The information also connected what students learned in classes with the outside. 

This experience later provided an opportunity for students of the Life on land group to get back in touch and meet Kristaps again to conduct an interview. 

During the talk, students asked various questions prepared in advance and recorded answers. Things from what to expect in Latvia regarding forestry, why the forests are important, and how the forests are an integral part of sustainable development and natural wildlife were covered. 

The information was used to help guide their research for their Exhibition booth posters and to help them think about what they would like to do in their local community.

During the meet, Kristaps organised with officials from Riga Mezi a special tour through the Tomes Forest, a managed forest near the city of Ogre. 

Kristaps led a walk with officials from Riga Mezi through the Tomes Forest where students could see every variety of common Latvian tree in various stages of growth and organisation (from saplings in massive outside nurseries to fully grown trees providing habitats to natural wildlife and more).

Later, Kristaps and the Riga Mezi officials taught students how:

  • to measure tree heights without equipment
  • how to tell the age of a tree
  • how to plant trees with proper tree planting equipment
  • how to measure the average number of trees in a given space using a yard of string and simple mathematics

Students not only learned, but also got to enjoy the experience with one another in the outdoors.

Riga Mezi also taught kids about the various animals that live in Latvian forests, conducting a game to learn about the different tracks left behind by animals that currently live in Latvia. 

The activity helped students learn how to identify tracks from prey to predator.

After the activity, Riga Mezi and Kristaps went in depth into the different types of animal species and how they affect the balance of nature if hunting or poaching are not managed responsibly in the future. 

On top of the activities, Kristaps and Riga Mezi brought the students to learn about infected trees (insects) and the danger they pose to the forest as a whole. 

The students could see the various types of equipment used to manage infestations and how something very small (such as an insect) could affect such a vast number of animals and plantlife across a massive area.

The experience led the Grade 5 students of the Life on Land group to consider what they can do to immediately improve nature in their local community, regardless of size of impact.

Fixating on the ISR Kalnciema Iela 118 campus, the students decided to use funds they had earned through selling their own green onions during ISR’s International Day activities to buy 10 pine trees from a local Latvian nursery. They planned to do a second fundraiser during their exhibition with their remaining onions. 

After the sales, and with the help of teachers, the kids were able to get their trees—getting them one step closer to completing their goal!

The trees were added to the existing row along the ISR fence, forever planting their action as a memory for future students to enjoy at the school alongside the donation of other trees from the US Embassy.

Kids shared that contributing to the existing greenery of the school could be a small step toward prompting fellow students to ask, “Why?”, leading to opportunities for other kids to learn about the importance of trees and their impact on our global environment, and in Latvia.

Latvian Green Movement

Janis Matulis, representing the Latvian Green Movement, met with Grade 5 students to educate them about the campaign “Save the Dunes.”

Save the Dunes was a grassroots campaign in Latvia focused on preserving the country’s coastal dune ecosystems, it aimed to safeguard the unique biotopes of the dunes by constructing and enhancing modern, visitor-friendly infrastructure.

The goal was to steer tourists away from fragile areas toward more resilient ones and raise awareness through campaigns and educational endeavours, such as collaborative clean-up efforts and tree planting activities.

Educating students on how to address dune protection through infrastructure development, community participation, and awareness-building initiatives, teaches students how campaigns in real life usually adopt a comprehensive approach to conservation. (Sustainability is not a simple thing to work toward, even for adults).

The experience allowed students of the Life Below Water group to plan and ask questions about what they can do to protect the natural water environment of Latvia. 

Considering the scope of their project, and the information they learned from Janis, the students thought of a way to combine art with action.

As a result of the meeting, the students organised a cleanup activity by the Vansu bridge in Riga to collect trash. 

They wore protective gear and considered hygiene safety while collecting trash that ranged from plastics to paper alongside the underpart of the bridge and the nearby children’s playground.

The trash was kept and brought back to the school. The trash was displayed to visitors alongside the booth and some plastic was cleaned and used as a part of their interactive art hallway, which people could walk through to experience what pollution might feel like to sea animals (learn more about the artwork in the last section of this post).

Riga Zoo

The Riga Zoo offers educational tours guided by professionals. Students of the Life on Land group decided to visit the zoo to talk to an expert and learn more about animal habitats across the world and non-native species would help them with their Exhibition. The entire class went as connections could be made to almost every Exhibition group.

During the tour, the students learned about the interconnectedness of animal habitats, nature, pollution, and human cities. They could to see hippos, Baltic Sea sealions, flamingos, zebras, and more.

Seeing animals in real life helps students connect what they learned in classes about ecosystems, nature, and the water cycle, with real animals. The kids also learned more about how zoos have a responsibility to ensure they can provide for the animals they choose to take on.

For the Clean Water and Sanitation group, they learned about the importance of water for animal rearing, farming, and how a lack of proper infrastructure can lead to disease in animals and then humans.

This helped the students of the group extend their knowledge and focus on their area of research, which was what made water clean.

The kids were excited to learn that they, too, can educate others about how a lack of clean water affects a country’s economy and can change social dynamics and school attendance.

Getlini Eko

Our natural environment doesn’t stand a chance against the unending stream of trash that piles up from cities. To combat and reduce the negative impact of pollution, Getlini Eko works hard at innovating solutions that can make the most of natural energy and manage trash collection responsibly. 

Students who visited Getlini learned about innovative ways to sustainably grow vegetables and fruits with energy gathered from solar panels and from clean hydraulic solutions managed by the landfill. 

The organization also works hard at managing and safely storing trash from Riga and cities nearby. The site included an educational walk on types of bins and management of radioactive waste which helped the students understand how important safe management of energy and material collection and disposal is for cities.

Kemeri Parks

Ilze Ozola, Chairman of the Board at the Latvian National Peatland Society, took the students to Kemeri to learn about Wetlands, focusing on the famous Latvian Kemeri Bog. The students walked along the well-known boardwalk where they got to view various types of moss and plantlife. Ilze was an exceptional guide, educating students on the importance of the natural environment, the complicated nature of boglife, and it’s vital place in the natural ecosystem for the planet and animal life in Latvia and abroad.

In a twist of expectations, students learned how trees which seem rather young and small are actually decades old. 

The wetland changes the way plantlife looks and grows, so plants and animal life were able to adapt to their environment in order to maximise their survival and nutrient absorption. 

Students created their own peatland in a jar, guided by Ilze, and were taught about the different layers that create the environment. Students were educated on the cleaning ability of moss and how water squeezed from moss is drinkable for animals and humans.

Students of the Clean Water and Sanitation group were invited to ask Ilze a few questions. They learned more about moss, the various animals that visit and find safety in bogs, and how bogs are formed. Following the students’ research, they collected samples from a small river near Kemeri’s boardwalk, and then a small sample of water from Kemeri bog. 

Later, the students of the Clean Water and Sanitation group tested the water of the school’s tap and drinking water against water from various parts of Latvia brought by school staff and against the water they collected outdoors in Kemeri.

Grand Final: Exhibition Day

After hard work, progress on posters and artworks, and more, the students of Grade 5 set up the gym alongside their teachers for Exhibition day. Mentors such as Heath Capello, Jemma Dooley, Rachel Ernst, and Lisa Bariss had worked hard to support students as they fine-tuned their research skills, and Ginta Karklina checked in on the Grade 5 teacher’s Mary Levocz and Cloe Montoya to provide overall support from the ISR school.

The result was a beautiful day of activity, communication, and music. The kids sang their chosen song during the start of each period where classes or groups, such as lower grades, parents, and the International School of Latvia’s Grade 5 students, could visit and learn about the International School of Riga’s PYPX event.

Clean Water and Sanitation

The group, Clean Water and Sanitation, worked on combining research skills with what they’ve learned about drinkable water from official online and library-found resources. A bake sale was done twice with the help of parents to raise funds to build a well in Eti Koppaka, India, which was done with the help of charity Barnabas Benefit. After the exhibition, with the help of Erika Butler in organising communication with the charity, the well was built, and the students received photos viewing the constructed work!

Barnabas Benefit was one of the charities the group got in touch with to learn about the importance of clean water and sanitation. From their own research, the group understood how sanitation impacts the environment, human economies in countries around the world, school attendance, gender inequality, and health safety for children, adults, and the elderly in every city.

To test their research, the group used pH strip tests to view values of different minerals and other factors in water found around Latvia with the help of their community. They collected water from the school, Kemeri bog and a stream near the area, and from other people who could travel around Latvia. 

They compared different mineral and pH levels to come to their conclusion that neutral, non-carbonated, soft water is the healthiest and difficult to get from nature, emphasising the importance and necessity for appropriate infrastructure for providing water to communities, agricultural land, and large cities.

Reduced Inequalities

The students of the reduced inequalities group created ceramic art and posters that relayed messages of injustice, discrimination, and mental health. In the middle of their stand they displayed food items donated by community members over the past several months in Riga, and the kids have donated the goods to Hope for Children as a way of taking action. 

Over 170 items of non-perishable foods such as canned meats and fish, pasta, baby food, canned goods, and more were donated. 

During the exhibition, the students raised awareness about the negative impacts of racism, sexism, and homophobia on the health, safety, and economic journey of people who are not boxed in by stereotypical roles.

Affordable and Clean Energy

The students of the Affordable and Clean Energy group constructed an electric fan and made a creative animated video viewable through a QR code earlier in April. They showed these items, alongside art pieces of oil rigs and more, during their stand on Exhibition day. 

Combining the use of technology and art to raise awareness, the kids advocated for the advantage of sustainable and green energy, sharing details on what unsustainability is, the issues of relying solely on oil, and educated fellow students and others about the different types of energy we use globally and in Latvia. Daniel, a student of this group, shares “I felt more comfortable and confident with my feelings after Exhibition.”

Life on Land

The Life on Land group shared their learnings about the natural environment, various types of animals and plants across the world, their importance and connection to the stability of our ecosystems, and the large number of onions and plants they grew in preparation for the April Exhibition. 

Attendees could buy the onions, which helped the group save up to buy trees which would help them continue the treeline at the ISR Primary campus. The trees were planted by the students themselves, and will remain at the school for decades to come.

The kids also spoke about specific animals facing extinction, how societies have worked together to protect animal life, and what we can do as regular citizens to avoid contributing to pollution and climate change.

Life Below Water

The Life Below Water group combined art with action, using plastics after cleaning to create art and an interactive hallway where students, parents, and other guests could walk through to experience the claustrophobia of pollution.

The experience helped people understand how only a handful of plastics, which can last hundreds of years, can create a dangerous and unpleasant experience for a small fish or simple sea mammal.

By displaying trash from Riga’s Vansu Bridge at the exhibition, the students showed how a simple two hour cleanup with a small group could result in a significant amount of trash that, upon first glance, doesn’t seem very cluttered but turns out to be.

The group educated visitors on how to protect animals underwater, how pollution affects climate change and natural life, and more.

Moving forward

If you’re interested in learning more about what ISR does to prepare Primary students for Middle School, and later the International Baccalaureate (IB Diploma), get in touch with us at If you’d like to learn about our graduates and their success stories, click here. Stay posted for next year’s PYPX (Exhibition) at ISR!


Author: Cloe Montoya