The Notre Dame Academy International Baccalaureate experience goes beyond traditional teacher directed education. Students are encouraged to become active in the learning process through consistent inquiry, action, and reflection. As a school, we aim to synthesize our Marist rooted mission with the International Baccalaureate Organization’s mission to create knowledgeable, compassionate, globally minded learners. We achieve this by directly teaching students the skills they need to be agents of their learning. Learning experiences are designed to reflect student choice, ownership, and voice.
The Primary Years Programme is frequently referred to by its acronym, the PYP. This programme serves all Notre Dame Academy students from pre-kindergarten to 5th grade. In the PYP, all learning takes place within a transdisciplinary framework which transcends or goes across all disciplines to encourage and challenge students to connect their learning to all 6 subject areas and into the real world, both locally and globally. Students are much more likely to retain information as it is placed in a context that helps them make meaningful connections and they are guided to see the broader concepts on which their learning is based.
This could look like students at Notre Dame Academy learning under the PYP transdisciplinary theme of “Who We Are” with a central idea that members of a free market have economic and social responsibilities. Learning engagements might include math where students find the cost of a certain selection of menu items and the change they would give if a customer gave cash for those items. Students may write business plans for a chosen business with others, deciding on and designing advertisements and logos in art class, performing and writing jingles in music, and making products targeted to a specific target group after reading and researching about the purposes and effects of advertising. This learning in the classroom often extends out into the community as action where learners may become more informed consumers and inquire into where the items they buy come from and who is benefiting from their production for instance.
The PYP is designed to be inclusive and engages students with a variety of learning needs. Learning experiences are carefully crafted to support student academic, personal, and social learning. Teachers and students are asked to reflect on their learning prior to, during, and after a unit of inquiry to ensure quality instruction, and optimization of learning opportunities and agency for future learning.