Between social media, the latest YouTube sensations, and an endless stream of, well, streaming shows, today’s kids have an endless supply of entertainment and information at their fingertips. While accessing content is instant, understanding it is more often not. How do students learn to think critically, imaginatively, and compassionately in a world that just never seems to stop?
IB education, or the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP), offers an approach to learning that works. This research-driven learning model, designed for students aged 3 to 12, focuses on the child’s holistic development as an inquirer, both in the classroom and in the world outside. Rather than learning how to answer questions on standardized tests (how often do those pop up in “real life?”), the IB student explores a framework guided by six transdisciplinary themes of global significance, using knowledge and skills derived from six subject areas. With an emphasis on inquiry, IB teachers guide students to make connections among these themes, subjects, and skills, creating powerful opportunities for personal and academic growth.
The fifth grade students at Discovery School experienced the richness of the IB model during a recent unit exploring the influence of geography on culture. Students set up their own world “regions” throughout the school then employed communication and problem-solving strategies to help sustain them. Unlike a traditional classroom, which often emphasizes lectures, worksheets and tests, the Discovery classroom invites students to become inquirers who take responsibility for their own learning. The geography unit resulted in the following interplay of subjects and skills:
- Tune In: The students studied and learned the value of natural resources. They created a resource list for their own region, using to find and create items to trade with other regions.
- Finding and Sorting Out: Students read, watched videos, and took notes on a variety of Pre-Columbian Indigenous cultures.
- Connect, Extend, and Challenge: As students watched episodes of the Human Planet, they explored further the value of trade.
- Draw Conclusions/Reflecting/Acting: Students reflected on their cultures and looked for customs and practices to use as points of comparison to understand other cultures’ perspectives.
- Explore Art: Students investigated hex symbols and created their own circular designs that reflect their regions.
- Mathematics: Students explored the number systems of other cultures.
- Music: Students created and performed their own music using resources and stories from their regions.
By the end of the unit, students had learned to successfully use teamwork and social skills to work with people from different cultural backgrounds. Together, they reached a common goal and learned how to implement processes. Additionally, they nurtured one of IB’s primary values, international-mindedness, to an extent that will help them become global citizens who take positive action for change throughout their lives.
Tomorrow’s high schoolers, college scholars, and professionals deserve a proven, research-based education design to equip them with the tools they need to become lifelong learners. An IB education generates more than report cards and numbers. It creates world changers.
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