Throughout the morning of Dec. 5, a group of fifth-graders at Manor View Elementary School learned how to add and subtract using an abacus.
The instruction, led by substitute teacher Brendan Kennedy, was part of a Mandarin Chinese class in the school’s International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme.
“I didn’t know a lot about [the abacus] before this class,” said Legend Campbell, 10. “I like learning about Chinese numbers and different cultures. … I’d like to get the experience to go to China.”
Kennedy, who taught English at a high school in China for a year before he began teaching at Manor View in September, said the purpose of the class is to explore the history and cultural importance of the abacus to China and to teach math skills.
“They seemed very excited to try and learn something new,” Kennedy said. “From my perspective, IB is important because it allows students to make connections with the world, which is so vital in our globalized century.”
Founded in 1968, the International Baccalaureate is a nonprofit educational foundation offering four programs of international education that develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.
Schools must be authorized by the IB organization to offer any of the programs, according to the IB website.
“All IB programs encourage critical thinking and questioning, global awareness and perspective, problem-based learning and meaningful action,” said Mary Austin, IB coordinator for the Anne Arundel County Public Schools. “The IB was originally designed to be ‘portable education’ that allowed students who traveled from country to country to pursue a consistent educational program. For these reasons, IB is a natural fit for military children.”
Manor View is one of three Fort Meade feeder schools that offer the IB Programme. MacArthur Middle School offers the IB Middle Years Programme to all its students. Meade High School offers the IB Middle Years Programme to freshmen and sophomores, and the IB Diploma Programme to juniors and seniors. Currently, 18 county schools offer IB at three high schools, three middle schools, 10 elementary schools and two public charter/contract schools.
Becoming Global Citizens
Meade High was the first Fort Meade school to offer the rigorous program as an option to students. In 2007, the program was expanded to include the IB Middle Years Programme offering instruction at MacArthur Middle and Meade High.
Manor View was evaluated and authorized as an IB World School for the Primary Years Programme in 2014. The school is now preparing for reauthorization in the fall of 2017.
Jeanne Ross, the IB coordinator for Manor View, said the IB philosophy is “about becoming the kind of person who is tolerant, caring, knowledgeable and willing to take action to make the world a better place.”
The written, taught and assessed curriculum is arranged within six Units of Inquiry: Who We Are, Where We Are In Place and Time, How We Express Ourselves, How The World Works, How We Organize Things and Sharing the Planet.
The teachers at Manor View teach language, social studies, math, arts, science and physical education within the Units of Inquiry based on transdisciplinary themes.
“Students use the skills they are developing as they question and research authentic ideas and concerns,” Ross said. “This is done through the six Units of Inquiry each year, and considers both the IB philosophy, standards and practices, as well as the Maryland and Common Core State Standards.”
IB also requires students to begin learning a language in addition to their home language in the Primary Years Programme. Mandarin is Manor View’s choice of language.
For example, Manor View’s second-grade students are currently working on the IB theme of Where We Are In Time and Place. They are inquiring the central idea of “Environment Impacts Homes and Journeys,” which includes a focus on how communities depend on active citizens and how environment impacts homes and journeys.
As part of this Unit of Inquiry, Lisa Griffin-Shortt led her class in a reading assignment about how the Pilgrims journeyed to America and how they were affected by the change in their environment.
“The focus here was to develop the students’ reading skills, as well as being globally minded about other places and times,” Griffin-Shortt said, while also developing research and communication skills.
The lesson draws on social studies and science content as well.
Attitudes are one of the essential elements of the Primary Years Programme and are included in all Units of Inquiry. “Some of the IB attitudes we were addressing were appreciation, empathy and curiosity,” she said.
Griffin-Shortt said the IB curriculum is beneficial to students because it allows for more creative thinking, and teachers can connect to other subjects while following standards.
The Primary Years Programme is the curriculum for the entire school and enrolls between 325 and 350 students at any given time due to the transiency of the military population. “Manor View is a neighborhood school, so students must live within our district boundaries,” Ross said. “We accept students who speak languages other than English and who have a variety of academic and social needs.”
Austin said the IB is an excellent choice for Fort Meade families.
“IB World School students develop strong academic, social and emotional characteristics,” she said. “They are also likely to perform well academically, often better than students in other programs.”
Ten-year-old Yosuar Rivera said he likes being an IB student. Not only is he learning Mandarin Chinese, but in his world history class he is learning about World War I and World War II. He plans to enlist in the Air Force.
“I want to touch the skies in a fighter plane and make airplanes, too,” he said.
Austin said IB can inspire curiosity.
“I hope that in addition to knowledge and skills, my IB students gain or further develop a love of lifelong learning,” she said.
For more information, go to www.ibo.org.