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The Role of the Primary Years Programme in the Continuum

By Sabrina McCartney, PYP coordinator at Carollwood Day School in Tampa, Florida, USA

How often do you get to witness the fruition of your work? As a Primary Years Programme (PYP) coordinator and Middle Years Programme (MYP) year three humanities teacher, I am able to view the impact of the PYP on students’ development. Working at Carrollwood Day School, an independent school located in Tampa, Florida, which implements the full continuum beginning PYP at age three continuing through MYP and the Diploma Programme, we are able to see the connections throughout the three programmes.

Our school began the IB journey with the Primary Years Programme, so it is no surprise that we truly believe that the PYP lays the foundation for the framework. For continuum schools, the learner profile is the thread that ties a school together. It is the common language that begins with the youngest of learners and continues through the high school years. The learner profile, which began as the PYP student profile, is developed and nurtured within the curriculum framework. As a school community, we also encourage the development of the PYP attitudes. Though the attitudes are officially only part of the programme, we consider that such traits as creativity, cooperation, and tolerance are important to foster at any age.

Like the learner profile, action is a common component in all three programmes. At Carrollwood Day School, the action cycle of choosing, acting, and reflecting begins at the early childhood level. Students become part of community service projects along with learning to make choices and reflecting on their decisions. For example, before our prekindergarten students enter our Exploratorium area, which includes many centers and manipulatives, they first must choose and plan their activities. When returning to the classroom, the students reflect on their experience, consequently reinforcing the action cycle.

Throughout the year, individual classes and the school community take part in community service opportunities. For example, our students in kindergarten partner with a nearby assisted living community, where they visit and share experiences at least once a month. Also, our students in grades two three five started an action club dedicated to community service. Recently, they chose to take action on the IB community theme of Sharing Our Humanity specifically focusing on education for all by organizing a book drive to help support a library at a local children’s home. Learning to take action at a young age continues on as they enter the Middle Years and Diploma Programmes.

Perhaps one of the most impressive outcomes of a solid PYP foundation is how it affects student learning. This past year, I had the opportunity of teaching our first class that went through the PYP exhibition as fifth graders. The students came well prepared with their inquiry and research skills. They formulated questions and sought to find answers. Over the past fifteen years, I have taught many knowledgeable and hardworking students. Students who completed the PYP stood out —as an entire grade —that had a genuine interest in learning. According to my colleagues who teach MYP years one and two, they see the same desire to learn in their students as well, thus showing the impressive impact of a Primary Years Programme learning foundation.