PYP "Who We Are" Unit Provides Ideal Framework for Classroom Return
When ISDenver opened for the 2020-21 school year, we opened with hope and optimism for another great year. The fact that the year could not proceed “normally” was undeniable in the face of a global pandemic, however; helping our learners regain the comforting sense of community of this school from the beginning became of utmost importance. Our candidacy for the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) turned out to provide a valuable tool for learners from K1 through 5th grade in a two-week unit called Who We Are.
In PYP, the primary grades version of the International Baccalaureate curriculum, there are six transdisciplinary themes. In addition to Who We Are, they are: Sharing the Planet; Where We Are in Place and Time; How We Organize Ourselves; How the World Works; and How We Express Ourselves.
These themes provide IB World Schools with the opportunity to incorporate local and global issues into the curriculum and effectively allow students to “step up” beyond the confines of learning within subject areas.
Melanie McClure, new Head of Primary at ISDenver who arrived in August, quickly realized the need to get all learners (K1 through 8th grade) focused on a common idea in this confusing time. The PYP unit, Who We Are, offered the perfect theme. Melanie could see that the idea would work across all grades to examine who we are as humans--our values, our physical person, social person and our relationships with others. So the year began for all with this two week unit.
When schools were abruptly mandated to close in March and students were switched to virtual learning--a new concept for everyone--the ISDenver community had essentially been lost, or at least put on hold. Reconnection was so important. “With the two-week Who We Are unit, teachers were provided a framework and given the time and freedom to build their class community,” Melanie explained.
PYP Coordinator Helene Caudron is enthusiastic about how the unit helped everyone to reconnect. “We were given the time to reflect; given the time for the children to settle back and rediscover what it is to be a student,” she said.
Teachers were given the freedom to design their own day to day learning experiences under the transdisciplinary theme of Who We Are. For Maria Garcia’s K2 Spanish class, it was learning all about spatial awareness as it relates to COVID safety. “'I can maintain a bubble around my body, and I can respect others’ spaces,' is a big concept for four-year-olds,” Maria explained, “but it becomes relatable when they see a hula hoop defining that space, and understand how much space surrounds them.” In their two-week unit, Maria’s learners made a book--Everything About Me--and drew pictures of themselves, concentrating on the physical: What color are my eyes? What color is my hair? Maria added, “Concepts like ‘What do I like’? And ‘Who are my friends’? help the students realize that our choices define who we are as individuals and as a community.”
Helene thinks the unit brought the students and learning community closer together. “After the two weeks were over, teachers could choose to lengthen the Who We Are unit, or they could choose to go to a different theme, because each area of study is approximately six weeks,” she explained. For example, the fifth grade began a unit on "Revolution," with the central idea being that "Human relations are defined by revolutions." Lines of inquiry the students focused on in this unit, which ended just before Fall Break, were causes of conflicts and revolutions (desire for change); effects of conflicts and revolution”(including freedom and independence); and changing and developing relationships during and after conflicts revolution.
Be sure to keep yourself informed about the PYP program as it progresses in this candidacy year. A monthly Zoom program is offered, with information in our weekly world E-News. The next one is scheduled for November 19. (Recordings of prior PYP meetings are available in the Parent Portal.)
Isabelle Valot, now age 17, who grew up in Denver before moving to France with her family, started school here at ISDenver in the French program when she was four years old. Her first teacher was current K3 French teacher Dominique Shortridge, who is still very close to the family.
ISDenver's virtual after-school Mentor Club is thriving and providing many benefits for all its members - including language immersion to students who are staying home from school and doing long-term Livestream Learning.
We the people are responsible to each other and our country, and we must make sure that our students know this. This is far from political “side taking.” It is forming opinions and ideas that are actively challenged and it is the work of great schools.