International Baccalaureate at Pine Street School
The goal of the International Baccalaureate is to develop students who will build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect.
The International Baccalaureate (“the IB”) is known for its academic rigor and highly respected among colleges and universities worldwide. It is considered a gold standard in education.
Most families are familiar with the IB in association with the Diploma Program for students in 11th and 12th Grade. Many are surprised to learn that the IB includes an early childhood and elementary school program called “the PYP” or Primary Years Program.
Pine Street School is the only school in New York City and one of just a few in the world offering the PYP with dual language options in both Mandarin Chinese and Spanish and then continuing this inquiry-based approach, offering the MYP with Spanish dual language through 5th Grade.
In 1990, international educators developed the PYP with inspiration from a host of constructivist learning models, like Montessori and Reggio Emilia. Then, as now, these models were considered global best practices for children ages 2-10. Constructivism has been around since the first Montessori school opened in 1907. Then, in the 1930s, Jean Piaget came out with his revolutionary theory of learning and officially labeled it constructivist theory.
Constructivism is a learning theory based on the belief that we all learn by constructing our own knowledge of the world through experiences and reflection, rather than by simply absorbing knowledge shared by someone else. In essence, constructivism argues that we gradually build (and revise) our own unique understanding of how things work and relate as we conduct observations, ask questions, and interact.
So, when you walk through a Montessori classroom or a Reggio Emilia classroom, you will see children investigating and building knowledge by interacting with materials, tools, the environment and each other. You will not see teachers directing students or insisting that they memorize facts. In these environments, all knowledge is constructed by each student in a highly individualized way. No two experiences are alike.
In 1990, the inventors of the PYP were inspired by these early constructivist models and strove to find ways to expand on them and connect them to the powerful IB model of global relevancy, rigorous inquiry and peer-to-peer collaboration.
They took notes from Montessori and Reggio Emilia and incorporated some basic elements of each into the PYP.
What Is the PYP?
The IB Primary Years Program (PYP) is the first ever curriculum framework for international primary schools, designed for students ages three to ten (Preschool through 5th Grade). Through both a unique curriculum approach and unique teaching methods it develops the intellectual, emotional and physical potential of each child.
At the heart of the PYP is a commitment to structured inquiry as the best approach to learning. Giving more ownership to the students in planning and assessing their learning, providing time, space, resources and support, integrating subjects, exploring big themes, we have moved toward more authentic learning.
Throughout the program, students acquire and apply a set of transdisciplinary skills: social skills, communication skills, thinking skills, research skills, and self-management skills. These skills are valuable for any learning that goes on within the classroom, and in life outside the school.
Confidence, caring, and curiosity are the key words for the early years (3-5 year olds) classroom. Through play and exploration children learn about themselves, others and the world. Though play, fun and enjoyment don’t end with preschool, the bigger focus from reception to 5th Grade is on becoming inquirers, thinkers, knowledgeable, and reflective learners.
The PYP recognizes the importance of traditional subjects but even more it emphasizes the need for using the knowledge and skills of these subjects to explore significant concepts that are global and common for all humans. Therefore, the PYP has identified six transdisciplinary themes that are explored through 6 units of inquiry in each grade level. Together, all six units make up the “Program of Inquiry”.
Each unit lasts about six weeks giving ample time for the students to demonstrate their prior knowledge and understanding, explore, wonder, experiment, solve problems, question, research, read, view, visit places, interview people, make connections, make meaning, and construct new knowledge and understanding. The students may work individually, with partners, in a small group or as a whole class.
Not everything can be integrated, so thereis time for subject specific learning. In teaching subject specific content, teachers encourage students to learn by acting and thinking as musicians, artists, sportspeople, mathematicians, readers, and writers.
To celebrate and demonstrate what the children have learned we have class gatherings, put work out on the walls, invite parents and peers for presentations, showcase work in many forms during regular assemblies, and have student led conferences with portfolios.
The culminating activity in the end of PYP is the PYP exhibition. This is not the end. Students are encouraged to reflect, to make informed choices and to take action that will help their peers, school staff and the wider community.
What distinguishes the PYP from other programs?
- International perspective:
A driving force behind the PYP is the philosophy of international mindedness. The IB’s mission is to nurture young people who recognize that they are global citizens and who are motivated to make changes to and in the world.
The subject areas of math, language, science, social studies, technology, the arts, and physical education are taught through transdisciplinary themes in order to help students make connections among the subjects, thereby facilitating more effective learning.
The PYP Is Made of...
- Knowledge ◦ The content most parents worry about… math, language, social studies, science, and the arts.
- Concepts ◦ This is a true innovation in the PYP. Children start as young as 3 learning i mportant ideas that have universal significance regardless of time or place within and across disciplines. Concepts are presented in the form of questions that drive inquiry.
- Skills ◦ Another key parent concern. Real skills. Or specific capabilities in thinking, social interactions, communication, self-management, and research.
- Attitudes ◦ Something most schools take for granted. These are dispositions, values, beliefs, and feelings towards learning. So important but often overlooked.
- Action ◦ And this final and critical feature for Pine Street School students. Making changes to and in the world.
The most significant and distinctive feature of the Primary Years Program are the six transdisciplinary themes.
- Who We Are
- Where We Are in Place and Time
- How We Express Ourselves
- How the World Works
- How We Organize Ourselves
- Sharing the Planet
These themes are selected for their relevance to the real world. They are described as transdisciplinary because they focus on issues that go across subject areas.
The transdisciplinary themes help teachers todevelop a program of inquiry. Teachers work together to develop investigations into important ideas, which require a substantial and high level of involvement on the part of students.
The Learner Profile guides all members of ourschool community as students learn to respect themselves, others in their communities and the world, and the planet. The Learner Profile has 10 attributes that are central to the values of all IB World Schools.
- Risk Taker ◦ I take on personal challenges and push myself beyond my comfort zone. I am thoughtfully courageous.
- Caring ◦ I want to make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the world around us. I like to be involved in projects with sustainable solutions. I recognize that by helping others, I help myself.
- Inquirer ◦ I am fascinated by how everything works. I love literature, and the connections I make with authors inspire my ideas an inform my writing.
- Communicator ◦ I express myself confidently and creatively in more than one language.
- Balanced ◦ I understand the importance of trying new things. I cooperate well with others, and I am also comfortable bring alone.
- Knowledgeable ◦ I understand ideas thart have local and global significance.
- Reflective ◦ I try to understand my strengths and weaknesses. I know myself as a learner and know what I need to learn effectively.
- Principled ◦ I take responsibility for my actions and their consequences. I make every effort to make the right choices.
- Thinker ◦ I consider other perspectives. I think before I act.
- Open-minded ◦ I appreciate my own culture and personal history and the values and traditions of others. I am willing to grow from the experience of evaluating a range of viewpoints.