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.

Play

Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning. – Fred Rogers

The importance of play to early years children (aged 3 – 6) cannot be overstated. It is highly adaptive, involves choice, promotes agency and provides rigorous opportunities to inquire into important concepts and personal interests. Play is the first stage of any exploration of something new or unfamiliar and requires a wealth of imagination and creativity. Think of the last time you got a new phone. The chances are you played around with the various apps and settings, rather than reading the lengthy instruction manual. This is a much more appealing and relevant way to learn. 

Through play, children actively construct meaning from their interactions with their environment and the world around them. During play, children construct, test, confirm or revise these ideas by themselves or with their peers, constantly adapting their personal models of how the world works. They also develop a range of skills, including social, thinking, communication, self-management and research skills. 

A wealth of research concludes that play supports healthy brain development by providing opportunities to extend cognitive, physical and emotional strength. Through unstructured play children make decisions and model adult behavior, which in turn can lead to increased confidence and resilience. Play is considered so important that it was included in the United Nations High Commission for the Human Rights of every child. 

At Discovery School the importance of play is recognized through daily unstructured recess for all grades, either in the gym or on the playground. Children sometimes play team games such as basketball or gaga ball. Others choose to play freely, chasing each other or hiding from their friends. Individual students may prefer some along time, sitting on the swings or observing the trees and plants throughout the area. In the younger grades, children have unfocused playtime in the classroom too. This often takes place during centers or free choice time. Students may play in the pretend center, at the water table or talking with friends while exploring a range of materials. Pre-school students even have a whole unit that explores the concept of play for a 10 week period. 

During play times Discovery School teachers act as facilitators by noticing the students’ emerging thinking processes, interests and theories, and responding in ways that extend their learning. Teachers may also initiate a range of intentional learning experiences, offering support and feedback to the students when needed. At a time when play is getting pushed out of traditional schools in favor of more rigid learning, Discovery School is proud to provide students time to play, explore and wonder.

References:

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/1/182

PYP: From Principles into Practice / Learning in the early years

Language Learning

Language development is an integral part of the primary years program (PYP). It  allows students to: 

  • express identity, 
  • develop international mindedness, 
  • become literate, and
  • become effective inquirers and communicators. 

The term “language learning” does not simply mean the development of a second or third language, which in Discovery School’s case is Mandarin and Spanish. Language permeates all areas of the curriculum and as such is foundational to developing well-rounded students. Discovery School teachers plan for the language development of their students, through intentional, well-designed learning engagements throughout the curriculum. As part of our language community, all classes participate in regular Daily 5, literacy centers or reading/writers workshop. This learning about language assists students in discovering the form and function of language, including the conventions, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. 

Learning through language takes place when students comprehend, synthesize, or evaluate information to further their understanding. Examples include writing research projects as part of units of inquiry, listening how to solve mathematical equations, or reading about a specific artist’s work and technique. Learning language takes place when students extend their understanding by learning new vocabulary or phrases in the language of instruction. The PYP shows the interconnectedness of these three sections, through the following diagram:

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Given the foundational nature of language and its connection to each area of the learning community, all teachers in the PYP are considered language teachers, regardless of specialism or grade level. Parents too, have a vital role to play in our language learning community through supporting their children with their wonderings, discussing learning and providing opportunities to consolidate and extend language development.

 

Results from our School Survey

You may remember that a survey was sent out at the beginning of the school year seeking your perspective on various aspects of Discovery School. Since it’s closure in mid-October we have been busy collating the results in order to include them in our IB self-study. The results were overwhelmingly positive and I would like to take this opportunity to share one of the key takeaways from the survey. 

With regards to the elements that parents find most important in a school, 

  • 63% said a low teacher to student ratio, 
  • 53% said an engaging curriculum, and 
  • 42% said that an awareness of what their child is doing in the classroom 

This is incredibly encouraging since our teacher to student ratio in the ELC is 1:6 and in the elementary ranging from 1:6 to 1:14, depending on the grade. In order to ensure our curriculum remains engaging and relevant for students it is collaboratively planned and reflected upon regularly. Recent changes include a focus on global issues in Grade 5, discussions on homelessness in PreK and an exploration of poetry and drama in Grade 3 and 4. For an overview of our curriculum, please visit our Program of Inquiry found here. At Discovery School all homeroom teachers have blogs and websites that are updated regularly giving you a snapshot of what your child is learning about in the classroom. The children experience so many varied and different learning experiences we love to talk about them. To access our teachers blogs, please click here.  

The complete response for this question can be found below. Unfortunately, Google missed off some of the labels. The first missing label with 16 responses is Access to Green Spaces. The second missing label with 10 responses is A focus on the Arts. The next missing label with 11 responses is Regular communication from Staff. The fourth missing label is Participation in the Local Community with 3 responses and the final missing label with 1 response is, Community Events. 

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A sample of other results from the survey include:

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Thank you to everyone who took the time to participate. A full breakdown of the results can be found here

Mindsets

How do you handle failure? Do you give up, secure in the knowledge that you are not good at that particular task? Do you lose your confidence, unable to overcome this particular setback? Or, do you take it is a sign that you need to try harder to improve in that area? Do you see the opportunity presented by the failure? 

These two “mindsets” are explored through the extensive work of Dr. Carol Dweck. Her research documents the plasticity of the brain and how neurons and connections in the brain can change with experience. People with fixed mindsets believe that skills, knowledge and ability cannot be developed. Failure is often difficult to process for people with fixed mindsets, the smallest setback can often be devastating. Adversely, people with a growth mindset believe that abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort, questioning and practice. People with a growth mindset learn from their mistakes, increasing their ability and achievement. 

Dr. Dweck’s research has far reaching implications for teachers and students. It recognizes that effort and hard work is more valuable than innate intelligence; that the process is more important than the product. Language and belief in one’s ability to grow is essential to moving from a fixed to a growth mindset. At Discovery School, students develop a growth mindset by being open-minded to new techniques or ways of doing things. Students reflect upon their personal strengths and weaknesses to act accordingly, making sure that they do not take the path of least resistance.

Growth-Mindset-01Having a growth mindset can benefit students in all areas of their life, not just the academic. It can apply to sports, chores and even hobbies. To find our further information about Dr. Dweck’s work, please go to https://www.mindsetworks.com/default.