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Mountainview Students Empowered By I.B. Program

June 8, 2011

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In a 3rd grade classroom at Moutainview Elementary in Waco, the students have taken over the class. And three of them are rapping.

In many schools around the country, that might constitute a problem. But not at Mountainview. Students are not just encouraged to take over the class; it's their mandate. And their rap is based on the worldview of characters from the book Charlotte's Web, as the students worked to "get inside" the heads of the characters. Mountainview was recently accredited by the International Baccalaureate program, after laying the groundwork to get accepted for the past few years. Principal Bill Shepard says the school is participating in the International Baccalaureate's Primary Years Program, or PYP, for their elementary students. The unique school building features several buildings around outdoor hallways and courtyards. And by the office is a big board with the lessons and goals of PYP. Dr. Shepard looks at the 6 tenets of understanding for students that provide the framework for their lessons, lessons they hope will create lifelong-learning citizens of the world:

Lessons are formed that help students, even those in kindergarten, start to look at everything they learn through these prisms. But the International Baccalaureate's Primary Years Program really gets radical when the lessons are put into practice. PYP in many ways takes the lesson planning out of the hands of the teachers and puts them into the hands of a bunch of 5 to 11 year-olds. Students have a term for what it is they want to learn, and the teachers follow suit.

This changes things for the teachers. To put it in a sports analogy, instead of being a quarterback in football running a set play called by their coach, they're more like a basketball player, improvising on the run and changing things on the fly depending on the situation. Back at the big board with the PYP model, Dr. Shepard points out that this isn't like the old days. His teachers can't keep running the same plays. IB essentially turns the students into their own coaches. To stay accredited by IB, the lessons have to constantly change.

Students are taking charge, teachers are taking a little more of a backseat role, and textbooks are sitting on the shelves. It's fun for the students, but how does it work and how engaged are the students? In part two of this story tomorrow, we'll answer these questions as we continue to look at the International Baccalaureate program at Mountainview Elementary School. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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