Honors program offers many students opportunities | SummitDaily.com

Honors program offers many students opportunities

SUMMIT COUNTY – When Micki Sawyer was considering whether or not to enroll her son, Thomas, in the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IB MYP) last year, she was concerned the program would be too demanding.

“Our main concern was that there would be too much homework because it was an advanced program, and it would take up too much time and not allow him to have time for other things,” Sawyer said. “He’s a very active athlete, and we didn’t want him to give that up.”

Sawyer’s concerns are among the common misconceptions about the IB program, said Nanci Morse, IB middle years coordinator.

Parents often worry IB students won’t have time for anything other than schoolwork, but that would contradict the point of the program, which is to ensure students are well-rounded, Morse said.

“IB is interested in touching aspects of the whole child, not just the academic child,” she said.

This is the second year Summit Middle School has offered the IB MYP program to students. Approximately 130 students – from sixth to eighth grade – are currently enrolled in the program. The school system will offer the opportunity for next year’s ninth-graders to enroll in IB.

The IB MYP program is a five-year honors program, for grades six through 10. According to the IB mission statement, the program “aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”

Despite her initial concerns about the program’s demands, Sawyer liked the opportunities IB would offer her son and decided to give it a try this year.

“We’re very pleased with it,” she said. “He’s done extremely well and chose to enroll in it next year.”

Sawyer and her son’s fears were unfounded – Thomas still has time to participate in extracurricular activities. He’s on the Nordic ski team, the Summit County swim team and is playing lacrosse.

In addition, Thomas’ grades have improved since enrolling in the IB program.

Thomas’ success in the program defies another common misconception about the program – that it is only for gifted and talented students.

“It’s for kids who want to learn and are willing to put some time into it and some effort,” Sawyer said.

Julie Hedman agrees.

“You don’t have to be a smart, elite person to be in there,” Hedman said, adding that her son, Hayden, initially didn’t qualify for the IB program and was required to do extra schoolwork before enrolling.

Hayden’s performance, too, has improved since he enrolled in the IB program.

“I chose it because I liked the curriculum, and it has proved us right this year,” Julie Hedman said. “His schoolwork and performance has improved with the extra challenge, and he’s concerned about his grades now – he’s concerned about doing well.”

Hayden also is active with extra-

curricular activities. He plays soccer and basketball, is in the school play and on student council.

The IB program curriculum still meets Colorado and district standards. The difference is its approach to learning.

“The (IB MYP) program is philosophically driven,” Morse said. As a result, students learn more about their place in the world, rather than a more traditional, jingoistic approach, she said.

By graduation, IB students are required to be fluent in at least a second language. They also are required to fulfill a community service requirement.

Those two requirements appealed to Deb Snyder and her sixth-grade daughter, Stephanie.

“We felt strongly that we would like to see Stephanie develop her language skills, especially in today’s world,” Snyder said.

“We also decided on the IBMYP program for its international flavor in delivering the curriculum,” she said. “The IBMYP program is very specific in terms of delivering international curriculum. We liked its connection with other programs around the world.”

Even as a sixth-grader, Stephanie must meet a community service requirement – 16 hours.

“The community service portion of the program is so worthwhile,” Snyder said. “We have seen Stephanie grow as an individual especially from that experience.”

Several parents have said their children also have benefitted from the structure of the IB program.

“It’s just a very structured program,” Hedman said. Her son “has developed good organizational skills because of it.”

Mark Black’s two sons, Hunter and Zack, also are enrolled in the IB program.

“They’ve settled into middle school very nicely, and I think the structure of the IB program has been helpful in that area,” Black said.

“We’re really talking about a world-class education here,” Morse said. “(Summit County has) good schools, but we’re dedicated to making them better, and this is a part of it.”

“It’s a great program,” Sawyer said. “I’m very pleased with it. Our whole family is.”

For more information about the IB MYP program, contact Nanci Morse at (970) 668-5037, ext. 306.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or lsnyder@summitdaily.com.

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