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Primary Years Programme: Forging an Institutional Culture and Identity

By Ana Laura Arellano Rodríguez, PYP coordinator, Centro de Estudios Columbus, Madison Veracruz, Mexico

All inquiries involve questioning. In the IB Primary Years Programme, this questioning is addressed through transdisciplinary themes. On an institutional level, and in an effort to forge our institutional identity, we can also ask ourselves: Who are we? How do we express ourselves? How do we share the planet?

Our school, Centro de Estudios Columbus (or Madison Veracruz as it is known), is a young school that is only in its third academic year. There are approximately 500 students enrolled in the kindergarten, primary and secondary levels. Our teaching staff is made up of people of different origins, cultures and genders, but their common denominator is their interest in personal and academic growth and in creating change in the society we belong to.

Because of our commitment to the community, the institutional identity that we want to forge is one which unifies us all.

Madison Veracruz’s “Little Carnival”

Our school is located just 500 meters from the coast of Puerto de Veracruz, Mexico. Each year, the state’s biggest festival, the Veracruz Carnival, takes place along this boulevard. Forty days before Easter, carnival floats and costumed groups make their way along the boulevard to the beat of festive music. As a way to identify with the community, Madison Veracruz celebrated its own “Little Carnival” a few days afterwards that followed a section of the same route.

About 600 members of our community formed groups and made floats with their classmates. Our inspiration when decorating the floats and making costumes for the students was the theme “peace and conflict”. We decided to use this IB community theme as a way to get the whole school to focus on the same inquiry and, at the same time, to get everyone to participate in the show, whose principles followed the same concepts.

And the decision paid off. Every grade expressed their view of peace as seen through history and through other lenses. The younger the pupils, the more support they received from their teachers and parents in inquiring what peace meant to them. The older students made their own interpretations, showing them off in such artistic projects as drawings, banners, songs, and costumes.

But the best was yet to come. At the end of the event, the school community got together on the school grounds for a fundraising party in support of those students who were going to represent our school in an international competition in the United Kingdom. After the families of these students tried for weeks to convince the school community that the money could only be raised if everyone helped, parents not only assisted in organizing the fundraiser, offering loads of enthusiasm and ideas, but they also made it an event that brought us together as a school. Today, these students know the importance of teamwork and synergy in reaching common goals. It became evident that the achievements of the members of the community were everybody’s achievements.

Who we are

The reasons why both events were successful were that they brought us together as a community—we had become the Madison Family that we had always wanted to be, showing that all of those who selflessly lent a hand had incorporated the learner profile attributes; they caused parents, students and teachers to reflect and to build knowledge together as we inquired about our personal—and the group’s vision—of peace and conflict; and finally, both events promoted the development of skills, attitudes, knowledge, and concepts.

In our consolidation as an institution, we need to reflect on who we are, among other questions. We will continue to think about what we are doing to educate agents of change as well as our educational community’s role in local, national, and international contexts. At this point we know that, as a school, we are IB at heart. We will continue to strive to make our family stronger through shared values. And, though we used to end our school newsletter with the phrase: “I’m Madison ... and you?” we will express our commitment from now on by signing off with “I’m IB ... and you?”