Over the last year, the Elementary program at GAA has continued its mission to be relevant and challenging for each child that is a part of our learning community. At the heart of our program is the IB Learner Profile that guides all staff and students in our goal to be internationally-minded, lifelong learners.
We also use the GEMS Core Values as guidance for program initiatives as we inspire, we challenge, we lead and we care. With these values in mind, the GAA Elementary school has grown and developed in a number of ways to ensure our teaching and learning is significant and engaging as students inquire into the world around them and construct their own understandings.
Apart from some of the cornerstones of our program explained below, you can read about other elements of our Elementary School in the Elementary School Handbook 2020-2021
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Explore the Elementary Curriculum
Programme of Inquiry
Like all IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) schools, each grade of our Elementary School curriculum is developed within a framework of six transdisciplinary Units of Inquiry. These units allow students to inquire into local and global issues, as they develop their own knowledge and conceptual understanding within the subjects of Science and Social Studies. They are transdisciplinary because students also inquire into these issues and ideas through Language, Mathematics and other non-core subjects as they come to understand that these subjects are interconnected. Grade level teacher teams develop learning engagements that allow the children to learn about the world as they develop Thinking, Communication, Social, Self-Management and Research Skills. Students in our Elementary School are also given on-going opportunities to develop the PYP attitudes as they demonstrate confidence, respect and curiosity (to name just a few attitudes) towards learning, the environment and people. In Grade 5, students engage in the PYP Exhibition unit when they are able to apply their knowledge, understandings and skills during an in-depth, student-centered inquiry into an issue. The children collaboratively explore different perspectives around an issue and develop an action plan based on their inquiry. You can view the outcome of the 2019 GAA PYP Exhibition in our Little Wildcats news edition below.
Language Learning through Workshop
Two years ago, the Elementary program embarked on a new and exciting initiative to implement the Writing Workshop model to Grades 1 to 5. The teachers at GAA have received frequent professional development in Writers Workshop instruction and are applying it effectively as they guide their students towards becoming outstanding authors that can write across a variety of genres. The Elementary teachers are engaged in ongoing reflection to develop a Writing Curriculum that is connected to the knowledge and concepts that are being explored in the Units of Study. Following a successful implementation of the Writers Workshop, the Elementary began implementing the Readers Workshop model this school year. We are excited to continue our journey into developing innovative ways in which Readers and Writers Workshop can support the essential elements of the PYP here at GAA.
This school year, Elementary educators are reviewing our Mathematics curriculum as we implement the recently revised AERO Mathematics Standards. This review has consisted of ensuring that our Mathematics teaching and learning is centred around students being engaged in real world problem solving as they grow to be enthusiastic ‘mathematicians’. Students in Elementary are given opportunities to both inquire into Mathematics concepts like numeracy and through concepts like Measurement and Data Handling that are integrated into Units of Inquiry. Children are given opportunities to construct their own meaning about Mathematics, transfer that meaning into symbols and eventually apply those meanings in authentic activities.
Students in Elementary are able to explore the world in which they live through a variety of Specialist Subjects each week. Children in Elementary attend frequent Physical Education classes when they explore identity, active learning and interactions through the acronym of TEAM (teamwork, education, action and motivation). Throughout the year, students have opportunities to demonstrate their learning through events such as Sports Days and the Health and Wellness Summit (HAWS). The GAA swimming pool facilities are used to develop the important life skills of swimming and water safety throughout the Elementary program. Elementary age children also have multiple ways to explore their curiosities in both Performing and Visual Arts. Throughout the year, specialist teachers in these subjects collaborate with homeroom teachers to develop ways in which learning in the Units of Inquiry can be extended into the Arts. This learning occurs through creation and response to the Arts and is demonstrated in a variety of summative assessment tasks and Arts Festivals held for the GAA community.
Our mission in Visual Arts is to provide a safe place for students to experiment and take risks, while providing the structure necessary for building age appropriate skills leading to confident young artists.
Equally important to opportunities for creativity and exposure to new materials is the development of an “Art Literacy” in the GAA student—a foundation of art knowledge as well as an appreciation for our cultural differences and similarities, and ways of expressing ourselves, from distant past to present. Within our school culture of kindness, students develop the critical thinking skills to allow them to reflect, respond and critique in healthy and constructive ways. Part of our creative process is how we share and present our work to our community. To this end, students work towards their yearly art festival where they are given an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments with peers and families.
Performing Arts General
Performing Arts at GAA provides students with the opportunity to engage the mind, body, and emotions into a collaborative expression that allows students to express themselves fully. Students are encouraged to explore music, drama, and movement. Through study and performance, students are able to explore and present themes and ideas. They are able to discover their own individual voice while learning new techniques through lessons and guided listening. We give our students the tools to think creatively, to innovate and appreciate diverse cultures and backgrounds.
Drama is recognized as a subject that benefits the overall learning and development of children. There are three main strands to the effective use of drama: a means to build children’s confidence and develop their social skills, a teaching approach for exploring cross-curricular subjects and issues, and an aid in developing children’s performance and self-presentation skills. Students explore the use of facial expressions, gestures, movement, posture, and vocal techniques. Here at GAA, students experience drama through a wide variety of stories. Throughout the year, all students are given the opportunity to perform onstage during grade level Arts Festivals. Grade 3 - 5 students are given the opportunity to audition for the Elementary school play that is produced in the Fall of each school year.
The ultimate goal of music education in our Primary Years Programme (PYP) is to create a solid foundation of vocal music along with strong music notation and note reading skills. Every student has the opportunity to play an instrument in an ensemble setting. All students are exposed to, and well versed in, the use of ORFF instruments. Throughout the year, all students are given the opportunity to perform in grade level Arts Festivals. Students in grades 3 and 4 are able to learn the recorder, while students in 5th grade learn the piano.
Here at GAA we believe that movement/dance plays an important role in society and brings communities together. Through our program, students are able to develop body awareness, balance, coordination, flexibility and strength. Students use their bodies as a medium of expression and are able to create movement/dance pieces independently.
PYP Exhibition 2019-2020
Mindfulness In GAA
Grounded in a field of scientific research, the practice of Mindfulness and its applications are widespread. Increasingly, in our fast-paced, digital world, adults and children alike are in need of techniques and strategies to find balance. The fruition of Mindfulness is an overall increased feeling of well-being; giving us tools to manage our stress, as well as enhance our innate human qualities that promote a feeling of genuine contentment.
Mindfulness has become a very popular term and is growing it's reach in various sectors around the globe; most notably in the fields of medicine and education. It is a research-based practice that entered the medical field in the 1970's (pioneered by a man named Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn). Since then it has continued to spread because of it's many benefits and contributions to well-being. Mindfulness is what is referred to as a mind and heart training that cultivates an optimal balance between alertness and relaxation in the mind, whilst also facilitating an attitude of curiosity and friendliness in the heart. This aligns directly with our first School Priority of fostering a culture of kindness at GAA. Practicing Mindfulness techniques, enhances our already-present capacity for awareness and allows us to respond to situations with more creativity instead of reactivity.
At GAA we follow a whole-school approach to integrate Mindfulness that weaves the threads of: Being Mindful, Teaching Mindfully, and Teaching Mindfulness. As such, teachers and administrators have the opportunity to participate in practices and professional development to learn about and cultivate Mindfulness, translating this into classroom applications, whilst also teaching students strategies that are relevant and age-appropriate. Students in grade 5, undertake an entire unit of study under the transdisciplinary theme: Who We Are that inquires into the central idea: Mindfulness is an active process that allows us to grow. Parents also are given the opportunity to learn about Mindfulness within our Parental Engagement outreach. It is groundbreaking work here at GAA! An integrated approach to teaching mindfulness is unique. And we are excited to see how it continues to evolve and holistically support our entire community