Both the PYP and the Traditional Program are built upon the same core curriculum in reading, math, science and social studies. The differences emerge through the four cornerstones of the PYP program, which are inquiry, the learner profile, international-mindedness, and action.
Inquiry – This method of teaching strives to improve questioning techniques, curiosity, independent work habits, cooperation, control over material covered, and interest in classroom units of study. Building on the USC School District curriculum, staff members collaborate to develop the units of inquiry (planners). These units are organized under six transdisciplinary themes: Who We Are; Where We Are in Place and Time; How We Express Ourselves; How the World Works; How We Organize Ourselves; and How We Share the Planet. Students are given a voice, generating their own wonderings and pursuing an investigation of the answers. These units extend the existing key concepts of the USC curriculum into more global perspectives. An example from the 4th grade connects with the Social Studies curriculum. The Canada/Mexico Social Studies units in the IB classrooms extend to explore the broader concepts of immigration and emigration in the Northern Hemisphere and expand into other parts of the world. To help parents and students alike see progress, each child maintains a portfolio of artifacts and personal reflections. These are shared annually.
Learner Profile - This element of the PYP focuses on academic attributes in an attempt to build lifelong learners, who are always seeking new knowledge to better themselves and others, and students who do more than is expected. These 10 terms capture the habits of good learners, which we want our children to recognize in themselves and in others. The Learner Profile terms are: inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, balanced, reflective. Through classroom conversations, as well as bi-annual PYP report cards, students have a chance to reflect on their growth and set goals.
Action – This aspect of PYP reaches out into the school, community and world to make a difference—one child and one deed at a time. Each unit of inquiry includes an action component. The culminating activity of the Primary Years Program occurs in 4th grade. The Inquiry Exhibition provides an opportunity for students to conduct in-depth research of a real life problem under the direct supervision of a faculty mentor. Students present their findings in a fair-like setting through visual displays, spoken expertise and written summaries. It is an opportunity for the children to share their knowledge of all aspects of the PYP program. This celebration is open to the community. Throughout the year, all students participate in cross grade level get-togethers. Addressing building-wide topics, these get-togethers foster community and a sense of responsibility for one another.
International-mindedness – This component broadens the students’ understanding of the world around them and helps them develop an appreciation for other points of view. It is incorporated in lessons designed by teachers, through the use of literary genre, annual country investigations, utilization of technology resources, and is often driven by the students’ own curiosity as well as their family heritage. We provide instruction first in our own national identity –our own language, literature, history and cultural heritage. Using this knowledge as a basis, students are exposed to a variety of other cultures from around the world in order to better understand differences and recognize similarities.
2. Is the PYP for gifted learners or more rigorous?
No, the intention of the PYP is to engage all types of learners. The Units of Inquiry are designed to accommodate all learning styles and abilities. Students with special needs, Service Agreements, or IEP’s receive services as specified in their agreements. Additional rigor does become a natural extension of the program during the latter year of the Middle Years Program, as well as during the Diploma Program.