Little Compton school explores ‘real world’ approach to learning

Wilbur-McMahon looks to International Baccalaureate program for middle school

Posted 8/9/19

LITTLE COMPTON — Little Compton’s Wilbur McMahon School could become the first public school in Rhode Island to become an International Baccalaureate World School, a program that “encourages …

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Little Compton school explores ‘real world’ approach to learning

Wilbur-McMahon looks to International Baccalaureate program for middle school

Posted

LITTLE COMPTON — Little Compton’s Wilbur McMahon School could become the first public school in Rhode Island to become an International Baccalaureate World School, a program that “encourages students to make practical connections between their studies and the real world.”

“Seeking new ways to help Little Compton middle school students become creative, critical and reflective thinkers so they are better equipped to make connections between what they are learning and the world around them,” the school has begun an investigation of the international program for its middle school students.

To that end, a team from the school has made four visits over the past year to the Provincetown Public School District, a school that participates in the program. Making the trip out to the end of Cape Cod have been Little Compton School administrators, school committee members, teachers and parents.

They reported being impressed by what they saw.

When the teams visited Provincetown Schools most recently in June, said Laurie Dias-Mitchell, superintendent of schools, “they were bowled over by the IB program in action at the middle school level and at the primary level years level. The takeaway for all of us was the palpable positive energy of the students and staff and the active learning taking place.”

The framework appeared to “imbue the school with a shared purpose, a shared vocabulary, a shared commitment delivering an educational program around rigor, relevance, relationship … Posters outlining the IB Learner profile, adorn the walls. Every hallway, classroom and common space is filled with content that celebrates every child as a learner, a doer, an influencer.”

To implement the Middle Years Program, the next step is to submit an application and successfully complete an authorization process.

“Research into the International Baccalaureate framework began during the spring of 2018, but plans began in earnest when I visited Provincetown last fall, just when a new principal, one with 20 years of IB teaching and administrative experience, was put into place there — perfect timing,” Dr. Dias-Mitchell said.   

The goal of IB, the superintendent said, “is to use global contexts to help students ‘develop an understanding of their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet.’  More specifically, the coursework is broader than any single, discrete discipline. There is an emphasis on the inter-relatedness of content areas … Let’s face it, real-world problems are rarely if ever confined within the artificial boundaries of academic disciplines.  In an IB school, students are inspired to embrace and understand the connections between traditional subjects (English, science, math, history, civics) and the real world. This real-world focus supports our young people as they become critical and reflective thinkers.”

“WMS’ middle grades instructional program already includes IB-like components, for sure, Dr. Dias-Mitchell said.  IB Middle Years Program MYP is comprised of eight subject groups:

•Language acquisition (our exploratory and academic Spanish programs)

•Language and literature (WMS’ ELA/CCSS program)

•Individuals and societies (WMS’ Social Studies/RI GSE program, Open Circle, Choose Love)

•Sciences (WMS’ Science/NGSS program)

•Mathematics (WMS’ Mathematics/CCSS program)

•Arts (WMS’ Unified Arts program)

•Physical and health education (WMS’ PE/Health program, Open Circle, Choose Love, Island Moving Company partnerships)

•Design (WMS’ STEAM initiatives – Code.org, First Tech, Sea Perch, Art education, Music Education, LC Makers/CORE/Island Moving Company partnerships)

In IB schools, the superintendent said, students complete and present a capstone project at various grade levels. Each project has a global context but with local connections.

“During our most recent visit to Provincetown, we saw real-life application of learning up close and personal. Science, ELA, and social studies were in the mix when a 4th grader collected and analyzed food waste from the school cafeteria. She extrapolated that waste increases when school policies prevent students from swapping/sharing food.  Another 4th-grade student created a database that rated major clothing manufacturers (Gap, Old Navy, etc) based on the working conditions in their factories. Fascinating — these scholars are 10 years old,” she said.

There are 22 IB schools in Massachusetts (private, charter, and public), but only one in Rhode island, Prout (private). 

IB program costs are:$4,000 for application ; $9,500 per year during candidacy phase (2 to 4 years); $10,050 annual school fee.  Teacher training averages $700 per teacher during the candidacy phase, with ongoing professional development that all schools, IB or otherwise, engage in, the superintendent said.

Founded in 1968 in Geneva, Switzerland, IB has a presence in over 150 countries throughout the world, its website says. There are IB World Schools across the globe, and universities worldwide recognize the strength of our programmes.

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