Learning Environments

Learning environments are an important aspect of education. As an authorized IB World School we recognize that learning can occur anywhere and at any time. With that said, careful consideration should be given to the following factors:

  • Engagement
  • Accessibility
  • Materials
  • Technology
  • Time, people, places
  • Agency
  • Co-construction 
  • Play
  • Flexibility 

At Discovery School, these aspects are at the forefront of our teachers’ minds. Classrooms are inviting and encourage active participation amongst students in the learning process. Displays of students’ work can be found throughout the school demonstrating a collaborative responsibility for the learning environment. Classrooms have desks as well as large carpeted areas to ensure flexibility which allows teachers to be responsive to the individual needs of their students by giving them agency to demonstrate what, why and how they are learning. 

Each classroom is equipped with a projector with Grades 3 and above having their own Chromebook to access the different platforms Google has to offer, including Slides and Docs. A wealth of physical and virtual resources have been used to support the students in their inquiries. Examples have included field trips to places around Ohio, parent and community volunteers, and virtual field trips to destinations around the globe. 

Discovery School recognizes the importance of nature in the development of children. Our 40+ acres of old-growth trees that surround the school on three sides feature heavily in our curriculum. Students in Kindergarten and above have a weekly scheduled “Woods” time that fosters that respect for the natural world and immerses them in the local flora and fauna. All Discovery School students are given regular unstructured playtime. This might be in the woods, the gymnasium or on our playground. Nowhere is play more evident than in our Early Learning Center building where students participate in a wide variety of play-based, center activities. 

We are very proud of our student-centered and engaging learning environment. Discovery School is very much a place where students enjoy coming to learn.

IB Evaluation Visit Report

The past 5 months since our IB evaluation visit has just flown by and I am happy to share that we received a successful report from the IB. During the course of the 2 day visit, the visiting team met with all stakeholders including leadership, teachers, parents, the board, and even a group of risk-taking students! They also spent time reviewing our school policies, written curriculum, and student work samples. The report includes:

  • Commendations for practices that address the Programme standards and practices in ways that solve challenges or for outstanding implementation of the PYP 
  • Recommendations for further developing the PYP 
  • Matters to be addressed jeopardize the integrity of the PYP and thus the entitlement to be considered an IB World School. 

The conclusion from the evaluation team was incredibly positive. We received no matters to be addressed, which goes a long way in affirming our commitment to the IB and our school’s mission to, “provide each child the educational opportunity to discover, with perseverance and imagination, the joy of learning and the interconnectedness of our world.” 

The visiting team shared that the community at Discovery School is incredibly respectful and we have a good understanding of the IB philosophy. They were impressed with the voice, choice, and ownership students were given in directing their learning. They felt that we offer an inclusive, stimulating environment that is supported by the close collaboration of all teachers. We are beyond happy that even though the visit was conducted virtually, they were able to get a sense of what truly makes Discovery School so special. 

Moving forward, the visiting team provided several actionable recommendations in order to move the PYP at Discovery School to the next level. This included initiating a review of classroom schedules, disseminating our school policies to stakeholders, and planning further ahead for teacher professional development. They also recommended that we review and broaden our assessment practices in order to monitor, document, and measure the diversity of student learning. Our next evaluation visit will not be until at least 2025 and so we have plenty of time (and energy!) to complete the recommendations included in the report. 

I would sincerely like to thank everyone who was involved in this important milestone. I am so grateful to be part of such a caring and reflective community!

PS – If you have any questions about the evaluation process or you would like a full copy of the report, please email sclark@discovery-school.net

Genius Hour

Genius Hour has been an integral part of Discovery School’s timetables since becoming an authorized IB school over 5 years ago. The concept of Genius Hour, also called 20% time, Passion Pursuit, or Me time, began with Google who gave employees the freedom to use up to 20% of their work time to work on projects and passions that interested them and would ultimately benefit the company. This self-guided time resulted in initiatives such as Google News and Gmail. You can find more information about Genius Hour by clicking here

In order to better support students through Genius Hour, teachers engaged in a similar process related to our school’s PYP action plan. Staff members worked in groups or individually to address the action items they were most interested in. This resulted in independent inquiries into:

  • Strategies to broaden the channels of communication between stakeholders,
  • Our stand-alone math curriculum to make connections to our transdisciplinary units
  • Deepening an understanding of Music in the PYP
  • Our digital PYP portfolio policy and practices 
  • Assessing and documenting prior learning
  • Increasing exploration of culture through our POI and additional language 

Our staff Genius Hour projects are still ongoing but we have already seen a range of action taking place. This includes teachers applying the resources they learned about during their own Genius Hour inquiries, staff members signing up to share at board meetings, and professional development around PYP portfolios. 

Don’t forget to ask your child what they are currently inquiring into for their Genius Hour project!

Academic Honesty

At Discovery School, we strive to create a safe and encouraging environment for students to learn and explore ideas that can support them in making their thinking visible. Whether it is working in a group on a collaborative project, independently researching a paper, or recounting understanding, students are equipped with the values and principles that promote academic honesty. This is primarily done through direct instruction and an exploration of the IB learner profile. This framework provides students with the values necessary to make principled choices, by being reflective thinkers, knowledgeable communicators, and honest inquirers. 

In practice this means that in the younger grades, students are encouraged to share their own ideas while participating in discussions around honesty and truth. In the middle grades, students learn about the concept of plagairism and what it means to summarize texts in their own words. They also learn about the importance of independent work by not copying or cheating. In the upper elementary the students learn about the importance of academic honesty when working in groups, through creating agreed expectations. The students also develop their responsibility in referencing and citing sources and why this is a necessary part of learning. The aim of these examples is to show that academic honesty and integrity is a continuing discussion that takes place throughout the school and is a natural part of the learning process. 

“This is essentially what academic honesty is: making knowledge, understanding and thinking transparent. Such transparency needs to be taught and supported throughout a child’s education.”

(2014). IBO – Academic honesty in the IB educational context

Learning about and extending an understanding of academic honesty is a natural part of being a lifelong learner and it ensures that students develop a responsibility and the skills necessary to succeed in a world where information is literally at their fingertips.

Update on PYP self-study

Our self study process is well under way, with only three sections of the IB programme standards and practices (the rules for all IB schools) left to consider – collaborative planning, resources and support, and leadership and organization. We will submit our documentation for evaluation by June 1 and our visit will be held on September 24 – 25. We are excited about welcoming a team of IB educators to our school and we anticipate a positive visit. 

Teachers and staff members have been working tirelessly in collaborative groups to reflect on all aspects of our school. The following are areas that our analysis showed we are excelling in: 

    • The school promotes open communication on understanding and respect. Results from our parent survey, combined with input from staff members, highlighted the many forms of communication between the school and its stakeholders (staff, parents and students). Examples included, blogs, remind texts, email updates, and facebook posts. 
    • The school makes provision for students to learn a language, in addition to the language of instruction, at least from the age of seven. Mandarin is introduced to students in Preschool for 30 minutes a week, which increases to an hour from Kindergarten. Also in Kindergarten students are introduced to Spanish through our library special. This ensures that Discovery School students have a strong foundation of language learning. 
    • The written curriculum incorporates relevant experiences for students. Interviews with students and feedback from staff members demonstrate that our curriculum has many opportunities for relevant experiences for students, including field trips, guest speakers, use of the local area and collaborative tasks. 
    • The written curriculum promotes students’ awareness of individual, local, national, and world issues. Parent surveys, interviews with students and feedback from staff members highlighted a range of opportunities to explore different current events, including, The Super Bowl, the Coronavirus, the US census etc. Our units of inquiry also provided students with the opportunity to explore different global issues, such as climate change, equal rights, and homelessness. 
    • Teaching and learning encourages students to demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. Student agency is alive and well at Discovery School. Students and staff members could share a range of examples where students were given the choice and voice over how they could show their learning, including performances, presentations, and written responses. 

 

 

To ensure the ongoing development of the Primary Years Program at Discovery School, we have the following action items planned:

  • A whole-school 2.5 day workshop that explores the framework of the PYP and ensures a common language is used between staff members.
  • Develop connections with other PYP schools in Ohio to allow for collaboration and mutual visits between teachers. 
  • As a staff, review and update our language, assessment and inclusion policies annually. 
  • Broaden assessment strategies and tools that teachers use to collect data on students understanding before, during and after units of study, as well as developing an understanding of how learning and teaching can be communicated to parents and students. 

The self-study process is incredibly long and involved, but the data we have gathered will guide the future growth of the PYP at Discovery School and ensure we continue to go from strength to strength. I will share a further update with you after we have uploaded all our documentation and submitted it to the IB. As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or queries, sclark@discovery-school.net.