Meridian School was granted authorization for the Primary Years Program as of March 19th, 2013. Read more about this program below!
The Primary Years Program (PYP) is the most recent of the IB programs and was adopted by the IB organization in 1997 to serve students ages 3 to 12. DP and MYP programs had at that time been in existence for several years. The PYP may be done in a school as a stand-alone program, but works well in laying the foundation for students to enter the MYP and DP Programs (creating an IB continuum.) As initial implementation costs are high, Meridian staggered the programs in their implementation, allowing for better financial and staffing considerations. We began with the PYP (authorized in 2013), followed by the DP Program (now authorized). We are working to complete the IB continuum with the MYP program, with an authorization visit scheduled for the 16-17 school year. The PYP will undergo an "evaluation" visit in 2016-17 to ensure that the requirements of the program continue to be met. These evaluations continue every 3-5 years to ensure continued quality and are one of the great features of the program. Schools must continue to grow and build their programs in order to retain the use of the IB brand.
The PYP represents a combination of wide-ranging research and experience – best practices derived from a variety of national and independent schools from around the world. The philosophy is that student learning is best done when it is authentic – relevant to the “real” world; and transdisciplinary, which means that the learning is not confined within the boundaries of traditional subject areas but is supported and enriched by them.
Learning to teach through the PYP elements is a journey – not something that is taught in university studies and not something learned quickly. It takes approximately three years for a teacher to be able to truly understand all elements of the program and implement them seamlessly. Most teachers will attend multiple training sessions before they reach this point. We are extremely fortunate at Meridian to have Wednesday early release days, which allow us to have regular, focused staff development. We are also fortunate to have three authorized IB trainers on staff to assist with guiding the learning. In addition to the teachers we have chosen and trained through Meridian's expectations, we also have hired several teachers with training and experience in IB from other educational institutions. Still, teachers in the IB program feel the pressure of a steep learning curve and the continued high expectations that are placed on them. We ask our parent body to understand that the program is highly complex and support our teachers in their journey.
The PYP includes several components that are consistent across all PYP schools around the world. The following is an extremely brief overview of the main program elements. Meridian holds regular IB information sessions and we urge all parents to attend and become more familiar with the intracacies of the program - all in an effort to give your child a high quality education. The main components of the program are:
The Learner Profile: These are a series of attributes that we aim to exemplify, which include development of the whole person – physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically. The Learner Profile is used in all three IB programs and at Meridian we ask all adults, including parents and staff, to model these attributes as well. Students, parents and staff members are asked to sign agreements that they will uphold and model these attributes. These are displayed by our wonderful mural in the foyer, posted in every classroom and are a common language within our school. Each nine weeks, students reflect on one or more of these on a report card addendum, which includes a reflection by the teacher and parent as well. The attributes are: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective. (See the link at right for "The Learner Profile.")
The Attitudes: The attitudes are a series of characteristics used at Meridian as a part of our character education and discipline programs. These characteristics lay the foundation for the attributes of the learner profile and encourage students to develop the process of learning so that they can become lifelong learners. In PYP schools, students should demonstrate: appreciation, commitment, confidence, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empathy, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect, and tolerance. Again, the expectation at Meridian is that adults be models of these attitudes for students.
International-mindedness: Being internationally-minded, in the view of the IB, is to model the attributes of the learner profile and to have the knowledge that if we all do so, the world will be a better and more peaceful place. With this knowledge it is hoped that the kind of student who will graduate from a PYP school will, in the struggle to establish a personal set of values, be laying the foundation upon which international-mindedness will develop and flourish. At Meridian, we will strive to create opportunities for students to understand their world better by learning about the geography of our world, and by comparing our own cultures and beliefs with those of others, which in turn will teach us more about ourselves and our own personal histories.
Concepts: The PYP philosophy is that “purposeful, structured inquiry is a powerful vehicle for learning that promotes meaning and understanding, and challenges students to engage with significant ideas” IBPYP Making It Happen. This inquiry is sometimes driven by a series of questions, which help students understand the significance of both simple and complex questions and how to use variation in questions to build knowledge. As opposed to memorization of isolated facts and mastery of skills out of context, this method helps the learner to construct true meaning through critical thinking and transfer of knowledge across all areas. At Meridian we have chosen not to sacrifice this critical thinking and building of knowledge for the more traditional skill based, test-prep programs which will result in higher test scores, but often leave students with superficial levels of understanding.
Knowledge: In addition to a partial “stand-alone” language and math program, students at Meridian learn through a transdisciplinary approach to teaching as described below.
At Meridian, reading is taught through the use of real literature as opposed to a traditional textbook and worksheet approach. Students are independently assessed through various methods, including the Fountas & Pinnell system, to identify their independent and instructional reading levels. Using this information, students use literature based on these levels to gain word identification, fluency, and comprehension skills. The Words Their Way© program is used to identify individual needs in the learning of spelling patterns. This is in place of traditional memorization programs that focus on weekly spelling tests, with the goal being the transfer of knowledge of patterns and rules in the students’ everyday writing. Meridian uses the EveryDay Math© program as our standard math curriculum. The program is a high-level, spiraled math program which includes inquiry and thinking skills and teachers ask students to relate these skills to real-life situations. In addition, reading and writing connections are made to the current IB unit for each student. Math is woven into the unit as well, in ways that connect and make sense to students through real-world connections.
Also at Meridian, we use the PYP transdisciplinary themes, which are used by teachers world-wide, to create a “Program of Inquiry.” This is made up of six “Units of Inquiry” per grade level under the headings: who we are; where we are in place and time; how we express ourselves; how the world works; how we organize ourselves, and sharing the planet. Each of the units are developed by teachers using our state objectives (TEKS) to address a central idea as well as critical “enduring understandings.” Each school’s Program of Inquiry (POI) is highly celebrated, as it involves intense work on the part of the teachers and is constantly being re-evaluated and refined. At Meridian, one of our talented parents has assisted us to create a showcase for the POI based on the themes of discovery and exploration. It is currently located in one of our main hallways.
Transdisciplinary Skills/Approaches to Learning: Within our learning, Meridian teachers are asked to ensure that students gain and apply a set of skills that are critical for life-long learning – within the classroom and in life outside the school. These include thinking skills, communication skills, research skills, social skills, and self-management skills. These are not taught in isolation, but are woven throughout our curriculum. Students in fourth grade receive more specific instruction through a weekly class in the ATL, which helps to prepare them for moving into the middle years program.
Action: In the PYP, the philosophy is that education must extend beyond knowledge and into the whole-child through the learning of socially responsible attitudes that translate into appropriate action. Students are taught that their learning often leads to making a choice and acting a certain way. This action extends student learning and can have a wider social impact. Teachers also work to be models of action, whether it be running a race to raise awareness of a social issue, helping a person with taking notes when their arm is injured, or watering planters in front to keep plants alive. Action can be taken by individuals or groups and is celebrated by our school community. (For more information please see the link at right for "Action in the PYP.")