Grandview Hills Elementary School is Leander ISD’s first elementary campus to house the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, which sets out to prepare students to become active, caring, lifelong learners who demonstrate respect for themselves and others.
IB PYP brings a cross-curricular, trans-disciplinary approach to teaching, meaning that all content areas are focused on all of the time.
Within IB PYP is a focus on student-based, discovery learning.
“Our district is really trying to get all of us to move toward that student ownership of learning,” said Kristen Alex, assistant principal at Grandview Hills ES. “And IB is just that – in the essence of being IB, it is student-led and student-driven.
“The teachers have to constantly be thinking and pulling from what the kids are saying, and then run with it,” she added, “while still staying in line with the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills).”
Sarah Fitz, the campus’ instructional coach, described IB PYP as concept-based instruction, as opposed to topic-based instruction.
“If you can picture something, then it’s most likely topical. And if you can’t picture it, it’s more abstract, and that’s most likely a concept,” Fitz explained. “For example, if you think of dinosaurs as a topic, you can picture it. And if you think about extinction, that’s much broader, and you might be able to apply it to so many different areas.”
Concept-based instruction allows for students to explore surrounding topics within in a particular concept, while still giving teachers a framework to guide their instruction.
At the heart of IB is the Learner Profile, an emphasis on skills beyond academics.
“It’s about creating good citizens, good global citizens,” said Fitz, further describing it as empowering risk-takers and thinkers, people that are knowledgeable. “We do try to bring that global approach so that students think outside of themselves. And a global approach may not necessarily mean that we’re studying things from other countries. It’s just so that kids think outside of themselves.”
This style of learning creates a need for flexibility by the teaching staff.
“You can have your lesson plans, like all good teachers have, but you do have to be able to adapt that plan to your students,” Fitz said. “Year to year, it’s not going to look the same.”
The curriculum and strategies of IB PYP re-enforce the district’s vision of creating lifelong learners.
“We want our kids to come in with that passion like they have with their backpack on the first day, and leave with that same passion,” Fitz said. “I do feel like we’re creating that within the IB campus fairly naturally.”