IB aims to prepare Summit County students for new global realities | SummitDaily.com

IB aims to prepare Summit County students for new global realities

JULIE SUTORsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Editor’s note: This story is one in a multipart series on Summit School District’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Today’s story focuses on some of the instructional elements of IB and how they play out in the classroom.SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit School District’s International Baccalaureate program comes under fire from time to time in Summit schools.And while many teachers, parents, administrators and students stand by the program, the anti-IB fires grew especially hot among the program’s opponents as the school district went through a budget-cutting process this spring, turning to community members to ask what they could part with.But Summit School District officials say the program is central to providing its students with the best-possible education to prepare them to be citizens and workers in the 21st century.The IB organization was established in 1968 to promote international understanding among university-bound students in a world where individual nations’ trade, transportation, financial markets and communication were increasingly linked. Today, the program is an educational framework and curriculum spanning preschool to 12th grade. The program emphasizes understanding other cultures, foreign language acquisition, application of knowledge in the real world, community service, an understanding of the processes of research and learning, and study of topics and concepts across academic subjects.Summit School District pays dues to the IB organization to have access to its research, instructional methods and curriculum within all grade levels.

Summit School District’s director of instruction, Lou Marchesano acknowledges that an IB program looks pretty different from the three R’s many of today’s adults grew up with.”In the 21st century, that is no longer sufficient,” Marchesano said of past approaches that compartmentalized content among the sciences, mathematics, social studies, English and other subjects. “Information is readily available to us through iPhones, computers and everything else. The students who are going to be the most successful are the creative and critical thinkers, the problem solvers, the ones who have a rich understanding of different perspectives, the ones who can navigate problems through a variety of perspectives.”21st-century learning” is a concept that comes up a lot in conversations about IB. Changes in the way the world does business, governs and communicates require a different educational approach than those of previous generations, according to Marchesano.Today, acquisition of knowledge and skills isn’t enough. Students need to know how to find information, how to solve problems and how to apply knowledge and skills in settings beyond their own borders.”No longer should schools be about the memorization and retention of knowledge. We need to get students to apply and think and translate situations to multiple perspectives. We should not learn in isolated subject areas, but see how things are interrelated,” Marchesano said.

Summit Cove Elementary fifth-graders got a dose of such transdisciplinary, global learning earlier this spring, when they delved into a unit on jobs, money and economies. The students began the unit by reading a novel about a boy who begins a lawn-mowing business. Rather than saving his money, the boy invests it, thereby multiplying his earnings over the course of a summer.Teacher Debra Mitchell then took that concept and asked the students to apply it in broader settings, including how people and businesses earn and invest money around the globe. The students explored how jobs and production are – or aren’t – tied to the geography of a location.Author Bruce Fleet, who lives in Frisco and has written extensively on global financial markets, visited the class to explain concepts like supply and demand, market capitalism and world trade.”He did a marvelous job of relating it to 11-year-olds,” Mitchell said. “He asked, ‘What if Hershey could outsource to India?” And the kids came up with the pros and cons of that.”The children also learned about the difference between stocks and bonds and how they’re traded on the market.”Since then, they’ve been talking about stocks and bonds when they see them on the news. They get why one is more secure than the other. They understand so much more about market economies and world trade. We started with a simple concept and took it worldwide,” Mitchell said.The concept of global markets provided an avenue for instruction across a range of subjects. The students honed their reading skills with the book that kicked off the unit. They wrote letters to Fleet, asking him questions about investing and other financial matters. They analyzed graphs and explored profit and loss, employing their math skills. And they dipped into social studies as they pondered the consequences of companies uprooting or moving their centers of production.Taking a concept like a boy investing his lawn-mowing wages and then applying it to the real world of the global economy is a typical phenomenon in an IB classroom.”Learning is not confined within the walls of the school,” Marchesano said. “Even when you go into the elementary schools, they begin talking differently and thinking differently. It increases the relevancy of learning.”Years ago, my own kids would come home and say, ‘Dad, when am I ever going to use this?’ But IB asks, ‘What do you think you would do with this?'” Marchesano said.

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