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 GAA Elementary Handbook.
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 2016 GAA PYP Exhibition 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, specialists 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.
PYP Exhibition 2016
Mindfulness at 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 itâ€™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 1970â€™s (pioneered by a man named Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn). Since then it has continued to spread because of itâ€™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.