Several Sioux City schools working toward International Baccalaureate programs
A few days prior to the start of the 2019-2020 school year, a Perry Creek Elementary classroom full of elementary school teachers were listening to trainer Anna Pamel discuss ways of encouraging students to become inquirers, thinkers and educational risk takers.
According to Kim Buryanek, associate superintendent of the Sioux City Community School District, teachers from Nodland, Sunnyside, Perry Creek and Clark Early Childhood Center were learning about becoming International Baccalaureate (IB) World Schools.
The four elementary schools, along with East, North and West middle schools, are currently in the candidacy phase of becoming IB-authorized schools.
“We fully expect that all seven schools will be approved within the next school year or so,” Buryanek said.
So, what does it mean to receive an International Baccalaureate education? Developed in Switzerland in 1968, the IB curriculum was originally taught at international schools attended by children of American diplomats.
Over time, the curriculum — which emphasizes independent thinking — has been adapted into more traditional school settings.
“The program allows students to develop their natural curiosity, engage themselves in figuring out complex problems while exploring ideas and issues that have that both local and global significance,” Buryanek explained.
This is a key component to IB-based learning. It looks at education on a much larger scale.
“With technology, the world is getting smaller and smaller,” Buryanek said. “The best way to prepare our kids for the world is to allow them to experience different cultures, languages and histories.”
Such global learning practices can be applied to English, math, science, social studies, the arts and even physical education.
“The International Baccalaureate program is inclusive for every student, from a child beginning preschool to a student who is getting ready for high school,” Buryanek said.
One of the more intriguing aspects is introducing foreign language classes at the early grades.
“It’s easier to teach a foreign language when students are younger,” Buryanek said. “We are working with teachers, principals and parents to see which languages will be most beneficial.”
As teachers continued with their professional development, Buryanek admitted that teaching IB classes are a bit more challenging.
A more traditional education is lesson or textbook-based. Students in an IB class are encouraged to develop their own sense of natural curiosity.
“The teachers are directing their students to explore and engage in an entirely new way,” Buryanek said.
The result, she said, will be students who have the tools needed for rapidly changing times.
“We need students who respect the dignity of other groups while being open to other perspectives,” Buryanek said. “Students who are principled, knowledgeable and caring function better, whether in a local or global community.”