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École River Heights School first to introduce middle years IB programme

September 21, 2021
River Heights IB programme

For the first time ever in a Manitoba middle school the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme is being offered in Winnipeg School Division. The IB Programme has been in Winnipeg high schools since at least the mid-1990s and now this exciting programme has come to the students at École River Heights School after much collaboration and preparation from teachers and staff. 

The International Baccalaureate (IB) was founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968. The first programme offered by the IB was the Diploma Programme (DP) then the Middle Years Programme (MYP) was introduced in 1994. The Primary Years Programme (PYP) followed in 1997 and more recently the Careers-related Certificate came to be in 2011.

Originally created for mobile families with children who needed to prepare for university, the programme has always been motivated to provide high-quality, international education for a better world. 

International Baccalaureate Coordinator and Inclusive Education Resource Teacher, Amanda Tétreault is delighted students have the MYP available at École River Heights School. “We are looking at learning with enthusiastic inquiry and global context focus,” she said. “Every unit has a connection to the world – whether it is local, national or global. The students are taught explicit skills to help them become better learners through Approaches to Learning (ATLs) such as communication, social, thinking, research and self-management. Each of these ATL categories have subcategories and very specific skills that are to be taught.”

The MYP at École River Heights is inclusive for all learners regardless of program (English or French Immersion) or learning needs. Students will work toward improving themselves through the Learner Profile and its ten attributes, namely: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. “Our staff worked together to design and implement units for students and align assessment across the curricula. Staff are also expected to take additional training in their subject groups. Teachers use command terms to help align assessment and are constantly sharing information within and between subject groups,” shared Tetrault. 

The Middle Years Programme (MYP) focusses on metacognition and inquiry. By teaching students the skills to better understand how to learn, the students will be able to manage heavier content loads in high school and post-secondary education. By starting in middle school, the IB program contexts will demonstrate connection to authentic world settings and events. One of the goals for students is to develop internationally-minded thinking using the world as a broad context for learning and thus preparing them to live in the globalized societies of the modern world. 

The MYP Global Contexts are unit plans used to help students focus on the internationally mindedness aspect of the IB Programme. 

Identities and relationships

Who we are: an inquiry into the nature of the self; beliefs and values; personal, physical, mental, social and spiritual health; human relationships including families, friends, communities and cultures; rights and responsibilities; what it means to be human.

Orientation in space and time

Where we are in place and time: an inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; the discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between, and the interconnectedness of, individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.

Personal and cultural expression

How we express ourselves: an inquiry into the ways in which we discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values; the ways in which we reflect on, extend and enjoy our creativity; our appreciation of the aesthetic.

Scientific and technical innovation

How the world works: an inquiry into the natural world and its laws; the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.

Globalization and sustainability

How we organize ourselves: an inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities; the structure and function of organizations; societal decision-making; economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.

Fairness and development

Sharing the planet: an inquiry into rights and responsibilities in the struggle to share finite resources with other people and with other living things; communities and the relationships within and between them; access to equal opportunities; peace and conflict resolution.

“The Middle Years Programme is just good pedagogy. The benefit of this programme is the format of focusing the unit development on global contexts and the expectation that teachers work together to develop engaging, inquiry-based units. There is consistency between teachers as the units are developed and assessed together,” explained Tétrault. All students in Grade 8 (year three of MYP) will complete a community project as service in the form of action is an important part of IB. Students will apply what they are learning in the classroom and beyond by making a difference through service to others and/or the environment.  

Students have embraced the MYP at École River Heights School and the feedback has been very positive. Each week, students highlight their work in the school newsletter or publish their experience with an aspect of the MYP. “It’s an exciting time at École River Heights School and students are looking forward to connecting with other MYP IB schools around the world and making a difference in their local communities with their projects.” 

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